Warren’s Gone: Do I Want to Join The Bernie Movement?

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Like many who supported Elizabeth Warren, I’m in mourning over her departure from the presidential race. Of course it had to happen; she had no path to getting the nomination.

I’m not enthusiastic about either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Neither to me has the ability to rally together such disparate elements of registered Democrats, progressives, independents, Never-Trumpers and disaffected real conservatives. Yesterday a Sanders supporter I admire asked on social media why Warren-supporting people like me (white, homeowner, decent income, college degree) either don’t support Sanders or will do so reluctantly. This is someone who feels the Bernie movement is inclusive and welcoming to everyone, yet wonders if maybe the more affluent feel left out.

I truly appreciate the thought and consideration of that question. Since I’m one of the “privileged” people who may feel left out, I can answer that: Nope. I really have no interest in the Sanders movement. I don’t follow any politician for the answers. With Bernie, it reached that stage with many a long time ago. In this case, my inner Groucho Marx just doesn’t want to be part of it.

Some Sanders supporters have gained a bad reputation for online bullying — or are Russian trolls. I can see where it’s easy for those not enthusiastic about Sanders to dismiss the whole lot of them, get angry and Go with Joe.

I’m not one of them. But…one of the comments in response to this thoughtful question basically agitated for class warfare.among people.with the same general set of goals. It made a staggering set of assumptions about the belief systems of all people who are presumably better off than the poster. It was tone-deaf and angry. And if this is how the “ambassadors” of the Sanders campaign go about their mission for courting Warren, Buttigieg, Klobucher or Steyer voters – as well as Biden intenders – then guess what? Joe Biden has already won the nomination just on delegates.

I get the anger. I get that millions of Americans have been screwed over by the system. I get that debt cripples the ability to buy a home, have kids, save for the future, or build financial independence. I get that people want a planet with air our children and grandchildren can breath and water they can drink.

What I don’t understand or sympathize with are people who think they know the needs and feelings of others better than people know themselves, and ignorantly talk rather than listen. And it seems to me the Sanders campaign did African-American voters a real disservice by not listening in South Carolina.

In 1966, right before the Beatles’ third American tour, John Lennon boasted that they were “bigger than Jesus” and denigrated Christians with, “Jesus was alright, but his followers were thick and ordinary.” The Bible Belt started burning Beatles records and Lennon had to quell his remarks. I happen to like Bernie Sanders and what he stands for. But.when you put God-like faith in a politician with good ideas but a mediocre-at-best record of accomplishments — and get angry hearing that legitimate criticism – you’ve failed at being inclusive and welcoming.

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Bernie’s central plan includes ripping up healthcare and eliminating all private insurance. It may cost $30 trillion, yet no one really knows. That will always be oft-putting to voters. Always. Then the candidate’s supporters say we’re gonna love it or else. Then when objections are raised, the supporters don’t always thoughtfully engage. The worst of them stick fingers in their ears (oops, don’t do that….Coronavirus) and label nearly everyone who questions as elites, centrists, neoliberals or fascists. Well, I have a huge problem with that. It shuts down engagement and honest debate.

My mother was a wise lady. She grew up among plenty of Communists, Bolsheviks, and Socialists who were affected by the Great Depression. She knew they were good people who just saw things differently. As an adult, it always made her angry when pandering politicians labeled an opponent with the “socialist” dog whistle. That is part of why convincing voters that Bernie is viable gets so complicated.  The Sanders campaign has not really done enough to factor in the discomfort or ignorance of what democratic socialism actually is by people who consider themselves capitalists. In short, people are going to take the Devil they know (Biden) over the one they know and really hate (Trump) and the one they have no real idea of (Sanders).

On the flip side, Joe (“together, Barack and me…”) Biden makes me cringe. I was around when he blew it in 1987 and in 2008. I can see by the vacant look in his eyes and his fake bravado that he knows he can’t pull this off without lots and lots of hand-holding. So if Joe gets the nomination, I hope to Hell that everyone supporting him knows what they’re doing. I hope he makes a fantastic women VP pick who can take over. I hope his loyal team will prop him up if elected, just as George W. Bush’s team did. I’ll be glad that Trump’s gone, but I’ll always presume that if it’s Joe Biden, he’ll be President in name only.

I don’t have that reservation about Bernie Sanders. That is the main reason that – despite believing he won’t make an effective President – I will vote for him in the April 28th New York State primary. Yes, some of his supporters are nasty, ignorant and dismissive of other points of view. But that doesn’t matter to me. They’re not significant enough to affect my vote. I can swat them away with the back of my hand. Just don’t expect me to jump up and down and act like Bernie is some demigod. He’s not, and stop trying to convince people otherwise.



My 10-Point Plan: Streamline U.S. Primaries to 10 Months

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I’m a political junkie, but after watching just the last 15 minutes of last night’s debate, I now find this primary stuff to be a draining chore.  Suddenly, I don’t like any of the Democratic candidates.

Does it have to be this way? Not necessarily. I think our European friends have an efficient process that could be adapted to the American way. Please take a look at my 10-point plan for streamlining the American primaries into 10 months:

1) No official campaign activity earlier than January 1st of election year.

2) Candidates are free to go out building coalitions, start fundraising, making speeches and holding rallies as early as they want, but again – no official party primary events until January 1st of election year. It’s 2020. Do we still need the 2-year distraction of the current cycle?

3) Reduce the primary debates to 6 monthly, held between January and June of the election year. To further keep these debates focused, have a theme for each: healthcare, the economy, taxation, race, global affairs or the climate crisis. Strong moderators keeping the candidates talking on these topics would be a great indicator of who really knows and cares about the issue…or who is creating a disturbance to distract from lack of substance.

4) As with the Olympics, Super Bowl and World Series, those debates should be handled by only one media outlet every four years. It would be won by competitive bid.

5) All those bids must include a comprehensive plan for controlling the debates. To make the winner adhere, bid specifications should include financial accountability if the media outlet fails to keep control of each debate.

6) Within 48 hours of the 6th debate, all absentee ballots for the primaries will be accepted in every state.

7) Have just one 50-state Super Tuesday primary in mid-to-late June. Yes, this one day would be nearly as important and logistically complicated as election day, but it would be uniform. Yes this is the most controversial idea, but we know that the model already exists. Having just one primary day and the general election day might also reduce some of the multiple openings for outside interference.

8) The two-party nominating conventions would take place 4-6 weeks after the 50-state Super Tuesday primary.

9) The nominated candidates would have 2 debates in September and October.

10) The nominated candidates would campaign from August thru Election Day.

During the debates I’d love for no audiences, as they’ve become a needless distraction. I’d also like to move election day into mid-October for maximum efficiency. Still, I would not want to die on either of those hills.

My 10-point plan would put almost everything – debates, nominations, campaigning, media coverage, #GOTV – into one efficient 10-month process. That’s about 3 times what a typical European political campaign lasts. This accounts for the United States having a population of 350 million population and hopefully up to 150 million voters to reach.

We have the technology and instantaneous communications to put the primary process on equal footing. No more endless “pulse of the people” coverage from Iowa or New Hampshire that tells us nothing. We’d get less sick of the candidates. They can do their actual day jobs, often as public servants, in a less-distracted way. The huge volume of ad spending would come over a much-shorter period.

I think this makes so much sense that some will call it positively un-American. What do YOU think?

Annual Rerun: Remembering My Father on Deer Lodge Day

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75 years ago today, my father Nat Engel was a U.S. Merchant Marine radio officer on the S.S. Deer Lodge.

At sea on the Indian Ocean, the ship was bombed to smithereens by a German u-boat. Several were killed and he was injured before making it to shore in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. From there, he was hospitalized and sidelined for several months. made lifelong friends, served out his time on other ships, came home, met my mother, raised my sisters and I, and lived a full, interesting and sometimes eccentric 84 years until 2007.

That’s why February 17, 1943 is always special in our family as Deer Lodge Day.  We would get together with my parents when they were alive to remember the day.  My sisters, brother-in-law and I continue to do this every 5 years or so.

I’m very much looking forward to sharing the memories, especially since there are younger family members who haven’t been part of this admittedly-unusual family holiday.

I don’t have many examples of my father’s writings of that time. He did have a flair for words, though. Here are two passages from a diary that he kept on another, later ship called the S.S. Edward Burleson:

ON BAD LUCK AND BAD COMPANY AT SEA: “During the early portion of this outward lap, I came to know the second mate pretty well. I share with him the unhappy distinction of being the only other man on board who’s been sunk by the Germans. He’d been on the Morremac Rey when she was divebombed and sunk off Murmansk, and had the gray hair to prove it. He spoke freely and often of his experience, and knowing what it must have been, I felt for him. But despite his 15 years at sea, he spoke of little else. On the basis of that one trip, he tried to tell Lt. (JG) Ralph Boches how the gun crew should be run, the signalmen how to hoist their flags and me how to take a time tick.” Dad then goes on to say how bored he got with the fellow.

OF HIS LONG WAIT FOR A SHIP IN NEWPORT NEWS: “I won’t plunge into the well-worn theme of servicemen in Southern towns. I’ll simply say that despite a three-week stay, my most pungent memory is of a loverly ballad that was beginning to sweep the country, and second best is my short stint as second fiddle to a discharged WAC who was waiting for a paratrooper from Topeka who’d promised to marry her. The song haunted us everywhere, from the jukeboxes in the beer-less taverns to the groups of soldiers trying to drown their boredom in a sea of noise. I’ll think of the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation and its canteens and environs (visits to Norfolk included) whenever I hear “Pistol Packin’ Mama”…..

Thanks for surviving, Dad. We owe you a lot, and we miss you.

Candidates Are Doin’ It For Themselves!

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Yesterday I was a poll worker in Brooklyn. It was the first time I’d done it in a few years, and I have to say it was a happy experience. Part of it was the good cheer and courtesy of my fellow workers and the voters. The other part was my feeling this would be a good day.

It was. I am happy for all the decisive Democratic wins by terrific candidates all over the country — and yeah, even some of the mediocre ones. They have proven we are not all you-know-who’s Nation!

Here is one thing that strikes me about the big winners: they didn’t come out ahead with traditional Democrat talking points.”Trump Sucks!” was not their mantra. Instead, they fought off race- and fear-mongering from GOP opponents and focused their messages directly on voter concerns and needs.

It is these campaigns and their hard-working people that deserve the credit. It re-affirmed my faith in supporting great individual campaigns, candidates and local political organizations that we believe in. Congrats to all!

Also, I now believe those wins should be celebrated regardless of a personal party affiliation. One thing I’ve learned this year is how little that really means. Like all identity politics, the lines are all blurred now.

The campaign I am most heartened by is one most of you heard nothing about. My friend John Bendo, a nuclear engineer by training, won his first-ever political race to the city council in his home town, Long Beach, New York. John is a political independent who ran as a Democrat. Why? Because the Nassau County Democratic Party knew the value of John’s name recognition as a fighter for the rights of Long Beach residents and businesses.

John Bendo won his first bid for public office based on common sense and a reputation for prioritizing residents and businesses. He didn’t hire political consultants.

BUT….Bendo for Long Beach took no money from the county’s political organization or special interest groups. Instead of big donations or direct mail/consulting firms that did relatively little for the money they asked, he assembled a dedicated group of volunteers. They took to the streets of the City by the Sea and did more listening than talking.

As John says: ” I’m so very proud of this grassroots campaign we’ve run. No money from political parties. No high paid consultants or political operatives telling us how it’s done. This thing was fueled by small donations and the tireless work of committed residents. We made it up as we went along.”

Personally, I just regret that my other commitments and distance from those streets kept me from doing more to help. But I did learn something — these are the kind of wins that should be celebrated regardless of a personal party affiliation. One thing I’ve learned this year is how little that really means. Like all identity politics, the lines are all blurred now.

Many of you will get a lot of self-congratulatory emails from national organizations like DNC, DSCC and the like. They will take credit for the wins and ask for money.

I won’t give. Like the RNC, the national Democratic Party remains a dysfunctional, broken apparatus. It won’t fix itself by pumping on its own chest, declaring victory and going hat in hand to Hollywood and Wall Street as before.

John Bendo has been a good friend to me for 30 years. I’ve always respected him. Now he’s inspired me to go beyond complaining. John has re-affirmed my faith that people can be motivated by the right ideas and a practical, realistic focus.

What does that mean for me personally? I don’t know. I’m not sure that a run for office is in the cards, but any ideas will be appreciated.

R.I.P., TP

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I cannot say I was a huge Tom Petty fan. I liked a lot of his songs. I never saw him live. Maybe I owned a cassette of “Hard Promises” in the Eighties. I mostly heard him on the radio a lot, or in other people’s homes or dorm rooms.

As my college buddy Bob Adsit said last night, his death is “Another loss of a voice that flooded my high school and college days.” And that he was.

When the idols of our youth die, there is a tendency to call it “the end of an era.” But it isn’t. We’re just acknowledging mortality, that’s all. In the next 25 years or so, we will probably say goodbye to McCartney, Jagger, Richards, Springsteen, Clapton, Plant, Page, et al. As well as pop, rap, TV and movie stars. It isn’t always easy to acknowledge that this is what the circle of life involves, but we have no choice except to embrace both our past and the future.

After yesterday’s murderous rampage in Las Vegas, I thought back to my awful senior year in high school. The song I most associate with that time is The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays,” based on a teenager who killed 2 adults and injured 8 children in San Diego.

But amidst my teenage ennui and depression, there was hope too. Tom Petty’s “Damn The Torpedoes,” released in fall 1979, was a nice breath of fresh air and optimism. “Refugee” was all over the airwaves that fall and winter. I always liked hearing it. Still do.

Thanks as always to Howard Enis for finding this!

When I graduated high school that spring, I decided not to go right into college. I instead took what they now call a “gap year.” I worked in a fabric factory, cutting bolts of tweed and vicuna for wall coverings, upholstery and blinds. Petty‘s first two LPs were integral to the regular mix of songs I would hear on WNEW-FM and WLIR-FM, the two “Album-Oriented Rock” (AOR) stations I listened to at my desk.

My supervisor at the factory, about 7 years my senior, was a great guy and a tolerant sort. Actually, he more than tolerant – a corrupting influence on a malleable 17-year-old is probably more accurate. He taught me some vices like racetrack gambling and how to drink. He worked me hard and got the company’s moneys worth from me, but he also helped me to play after.

While we shared similar tastes in music, particularly Springsteen, my supervisor hated Tom Petty. He derisively labeled the music “Three-Beat Tom” or “TP.” I never could figure that out. It was then I learned that even if you think someone is the coolest, not everyone can be in synch with how you feel.

When “Hard Promises” came out in the recessionary Spring of 1981, Tom Petty got a lot of positive press. He forced MCA to drop the price of his LPs and cassettes by one dollar to $8.98 (about $25 in today’s money). Petty wasn’t afraid of the record company, at a time when record companies dictated everything to the marketplace.

That made Tom Petty a consumer’s hero. The album was a good product that delivered what Petty fans needed and expected at a trying time. It made his victory even more triumphant.

When I got to college, it seemed like everyone in my dorm played Tom Petty. One guy listened to “Louisiana Rain” from “Damn The Torpedoes” and spoke wistfully of listening to it a lot while working construction on the Bayou. I began to understand that music meant different things to people. Soundtrack of our lives, as they say.

Petty really embraced MTV when it hit the scene. The “Alice in Wonderland” scenario of “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and the desolation of “You Got Lucky” stood out to me as very creative uses of the medium. Still, I didn’t take the guy all that seriously until Petty joined the Traveling Wilburys. I mean, if George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan wanted to make music with him, who was I to object?

Every indication is that Petty was a thoroughly liked and decent person. I know little about the guy’s personal life. That’s fine. A long marriage with children and grandchildren that ended. A heroin addiction in the Nineties that he overcame. A second, happy marriage. Many great live tours that I never saw. Some band tensions, but never a full breakup.

One thing I read in Petty’s obituary https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/03/arts/music/tom-petty-dead.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0 really stood out for me: in 2007, Petty re-assembled his Florida college band Mudcrutch. This finally gave founding members Tom Leadon and Randal Marsh a chance to make their debut album alongside the Heartbreakers.

That is something like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr going back to Liverpool and giving Pete Best a shot at recording with them. And it’s probably as fitting a way to say farewell to a guy who gave us a lot of listening pleasure.

Life Is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

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I turned off NPR this morning. A mass shooting with 50 murdered is not the way for a 1st-grader — or anyone — to start the day.

Among the other comments, parents on social media, on radio, with each other are asking how to tell their children about the horror in Las Vegas.

I don’t have an answer. Every child is different. Mine seems to deal with the truth in a pretty straightforward way. Others may be dealing with deeper-seated anxieties that something like this can trigger. Choosing to withhold discussion for now is also a legitimate choice.

Lately, my daughter has been asking a lot about The Beatles. She likes the music and is curious about them. That includes how old are they, who is alive and who is dead.

Just yesterday, she asked me how old George Harrison and John Lennon were when they died, and how it happened. I said George was 58 and had cancer. That one is easy for her. She knows that her grandmother died from cancer before she was born.

For John, I just told the truth without going into detail. I said John was 40 years old and shot by a man as he was leaving his house. I said the man with a gun had problems in the head that made him do it, I had just turned 18 and remember when it happened, and it was horrible. She absorbed that quietly.

I didn’t want to go into more specifics. I did quote John Lennon: life is what happens while we’re making other plans. Part of that means that no one knows what may be. Regardless, I said her mother and I will always keep her safe.

I don’t know if that helps other parents who are wrestling with what to do after school tonight. Every child is different, It’s simply one version of reality as I’ve chosen to deal with it.

Merging Humanity with Anger

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I delivered this homily as part of a Summer Sermon series at the First Unitarian Congregation Society of Brooklyn on August 27, 2017. Some unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalist principles of social justice thought it was too political and anti-Trump. Others found it beautiful and hopeful.


So…..We are all angry. All SO very angry. But Do We Have to Let Our Anger Ruin Us?

Here is a typical situation. Almost every weekday morning, I come home from dropping my daughter at day camp or school. Very often I will see – no, make that hear – someone screaming into their cell phone about something. Usually I only get bits and pieces of it, but the gist is that the person I see has been disrespected or wronged in some way.

Apparently they feel screaming at another human being is the only way to deal with that. We all have done it with a bank, a phone company, a government agency or the DMV, whomever.

Sometimes when I sense the basic rage behind the rants, I look at the person. I feel that some piece of whatever is good and loving and compassionate in them has just eroded away. What is happening to their humanity?

I also see many parents who curse in front of their young kids. Or worse, curse at them. I’m not a prude about foul language. I can and do curse a blue streak in the right company and circumstances. As a parent myself, I slip sometimes. I used the A-word in front of my child to describe someone the other day. I felt it was necessary to apologize for it..

It hurts to see parents, frustrated with a child’s imperfections, who cannot control themselves enough not to demean their own children with hurtful words. Have they lost their sense of the wonder, beauty and responsibility that comes with raising good human beings?

Am I the only one who is noticing that more people do not have a filter for their anger and vulgarity in public? I keep coming back to my father. He abhorred foul language. He saw it as demonstrating a lack of intelligence and imagination. Now in my youth and working some jobs in factories and the like, I disagreed with him, as most teenagers do with their parents.

Something must have rubbed off on me, because I associate anger with cursing. That’s why I have even thought of starting a National No-Cursing Day. I’d promote a day when everyone watches their words in how they deal with others. I would do a publicity blast, get on the comedy talk shows and go viral on social media. Ideally, Bill Maher would wash his mouth out with soap on HBO, and I’d help him.

Why do I think this is needed? Because I feel all of us have let anger de-humanize us. We’re so angry we can’t even slow down to listen to what anyone else can say or do to help. When my kid melts down, we tell her to breath. But that applies to adults. We are so stressed out that I truly think we risk making everyone we love and care about into our enemy.

Now, I think anger can be a positive force. It gets out what needs to be released. Anger. It expresses outrage at injustice. Anger can change things, often for the better. Anger can save lives. And repressing anger creates fear. Fear is never good.

Still, anger is dangerous when a human being has prolonged exposure to it. It can dehumanize us, corroding us from inside. And we don’t have to let anger ruin us.

For me, a bad day is one when my daughter wakes up in a bad mood, gives me a hard time, I drop and break something made of glass on the floor, I’m late for everything, a client doesn’t like something I’ve done, I’m kept waiting on a line or on the phone a really long time, I burn dinner or maybe my wife and I have failed to properly communicate about something basic, like whether we’re meeting somewhere. On these days, anything that happens or anyone who says the wrong thing incurs my wrath.

Do you have days like that? Yes, welcome to my club. BUT….do we have to let our anger ruin us?

Now, when I started to write this homily, I made a promise to myself. That promise? That I wasn’t going to bring HIM into this. Now, you know who I mean. I felt strongly that after 2 years of this madness, couldn’t we look at anger and humanity in a broader way than one vulgar man? Couldn’t we examine the deeper sources of our rage? Couldn’t we bring ourselves back to center without giving that refugee from the human race even more attention?

I tried. I wrote a draft the week before last. I was reasonably happy with it. The family and I went to New Hampshire and Massachusetts to see relatives and go on a bike ride. On the Saturday evening of that weekend, I saw the horrible news about Charlottesville.

Often when tragedies like that happen, we are just numb. Yes, we do offer solace and prayer, hold vigils, and reach out to communities that are hurting. Still, we essentially feel powerless. We don’t know what to say or do.

One of our recent congregants, Alexandra Gecker, recently moved back to Richmond and was in Charlottesville with her UU congregation. Luckily she avoided the violence, but Alex’s account of what being there was like made me think of being near a terrorist attack on another continent.

Alexandra wrote that she wasn’t there to argue with the people engaging in hateful rhetoric or actions. She went for everyone else, especially people of color. Her congregation wanted to add more bodies and voices to say “NO” to racism and white supremacy, and help those directly affected by the actions of the hate groups.

This is what Alexandra wrote on Facebook: “Our First UU friends helped us safely get two fellow UUs to our car so we could get them to their car (in a beautiful yellow-shirted Standing on the Side of Love blob, they shepherded these two women…). I’m glad we were there… and I’m super angry that anyone had to be.

“As a wise person reminded me yesterday, these views are not isolated to just the folks who gathered in Emancipation Park yesterday. It’s important to say ‘No Thanks’ to white supremacy in super-clear, tangible ways when it makes itself this blatant, and hopefully that helps us say ‘No’ when it is more subtle as well.”

This is 2017. We had a two-term American President of color. Those of us too young to witness the Sixties civil rights struggle beyond faint memories and history media find this hard to fathom. Aren’t we supposed to be past this part of the struggle?

I wasn’t numb after reading Alex’s account of Charlottesville. I was angry. I still am and will continue to be. People died. We must fight back. I know a UU congregation feels that way. But what has surprised me and given me hope is the condemnation of conservative politicians, business leaders and others who aren’t completely aligned with so-called progressive values. They also won’t be silent about allowing this to be acceptable in any way, shape or form.

Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan have that effect. There is nothing about their belief systems that allows the inclusion of some “very fine people.”

Of course we can understand why Susan Bro, the mother of the murdered Heather Heyer, could not bring herself to talk with Trump. In her time of grief, why should she waste a moment on someone who has no filter, no sensitivity and no ability to listen to others? If anyone has the right not to consider Trump her President, it is Susan Bro.

Yet if you heard or read what a composed Ms. Bro said at her daughter’s memorial, she holds on to humanity and hope. The message of the day was to stand up for what you believe in. Heather Heyer’s mother did not see the need to talk about Trump. And I think she’s right. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up,” Ms. Bro called out. “Well, guess what — you just magnified her.”

Ms. Bro said it’s not all about forgiveness. She acknowledged we will always have differences and be angry with each other. But she also compelled people to channel that anger into something that isn’t hate. The inspiration I take from Ms. Bro is that she is not going to let anger ruin her. She sees no gain in matching hate for hate.

But let’s make no mistake. Hate is prevalent. We now have a situation unlike any seen in the modern media age. The President of the United States basically says that if Nazis, racists and anti-Semites are armed in the street, well…he is A-OK with that.

But enough about him. What about us? I’d argue that what we have to deal with locally is more important and requires more of our real human intervention.

People are being discharged from psychiatric hospitals to live homeless, in the streets. And when that looks bad, they are shuttled elsewhere. Meanwhile, the roots of the homeless crisis get pushed further under the rug.

Families that may have a roof over their head can only do so without enough to eat. Parents work multiple jobs and leave children to fend on their own. They’re vulnerable to crime, gangs, and the worst the streets have to offer. What are we doing to help end these vicious cycles?

The police cannot stop and frisk any more. Yet people of color, particularly men, are more likely than anyone to be profiled, harassed, jailed, beaten or even killed. Too many police aren’t trained to handle tough situations. They get scared or just shoot. And too many of them get away with it.

There’s been significant progress in racial and sexual discrimination. Yet now we are seeing that too many people miss the good old days of white supremacy. Even if they don’t march and vocalize it, how do we keep this from being acceptable again?

Rampant greed is ripping apart the fabric of communities that were critical to our city’s revitalization. I walk through some neighborhoods and feel like a neutron bomb has gone off. There are these glittering new buildings that are barely inhabited, yet the streetscape lacks life and has empty storefronts.

Economic injustice? The thing that makes me angriest about Trump defenders is when they say “you won’t put him down so much when you look at your next 401K statement.” The selfishness of that Me First sentiment is beyond contemptible. Yet I’d argue it’s more prevalent than sanctioned racism or violence because it comes from “normal people.”

We have the right, and a basic responsibility to get angry and fight back against these kinds of injustices. That’s where anger is a positive force. It can channel our resolve to do something. I believe that is part of why you come here.

But for me, the problem is that something gets lost in the transition from Reverend Ana’s Sunday homily and Monday, when I deal with life and look at the news. I feel frustrated and doubt myself about being able to do anything, or make a difference.

So I find it easy to revert to potshots, name-calling and booing from the peanut gallery about critical issues. Who is that really helping?

It saddens me when I feel it in myself and see it in others. I see it ripping away at people that I love. I see people who might once have been able to see another side of things taking refuge in polarization and “being right”. I see good people who made bad choices being treated as pariahs for, in many cases, making honest human mistakes.

All of us have the enormous capacity to be judgmental. It’s been pointed out that this is one of my lesser character traits. But I only can recognize what it is when I see it in others. Recently I had an exchange with someone I’ve known a long time in response to someone else’s opinions. It still bothers me:

“You know Peter, I’m so sick of you trying to be fair and hear out these Trump supporters. That guy is a moron. None of these people are worth bothering with anymore, if they ever were. And keep me out of these little debates.”

My response to this friend? The person he castigated and dismissed is also smart, kind and thoughtful in his daily life. I hold on to those qualities. To me, they are a better way to measure people than their politics. I asked him, am I supposed to dump someone else’s friendship because their politics are unacceptable to you?

The response I got was “You just don’t understand that everyone who voted for him is bringing us down!” I didn’t have an answer for that but I do now. It isn’t Trump that is bringing us down. It is us allowing our anger over Trump to bring us down. If we let it.

So here’s my call to action today: do we have to let our anger ruin us? No.

Maybe we need a slogan. I hope the Trump Era is very short-lived, but why not start chanting something that gives our power back to where it belongs? To ourselves.

Back when Teddy Roosevelt ran things, the subtle message was Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick. When Franklin Roosevelt took on our economic collapse and epidemic of poverty, we were told that We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself and it’s legendary. After September 11th, we had to tell ourselves Don’t Give in to Fear, or the Terrorists Win.

The failing Narcissist-in-Chief doesn’t really have one for his Presidency. Donald Trump rallies now remind me of an oldies act. He just plays the greatest hits from 2016. The crowd still gets pumped with “Lock Her Up,” “A Great, Big, Beautiful Wall” “The Lying Media” and “I Alone Can Do it.” But there are no follow-up songs. In Phoenix the other night, you could see people getting bored.

Don’t Let Your Anger Ruin You. Let’s be more specific about that. Let’s make it a political chant:



Can you repeat that with me?


Feel better? I do. One last time:


HA-LE-LU-JAH! HA-LE-LU-JAH, brothers and sisters! Whew! I’ll admit it. Watching some of those old-time preachers has inspired me.

Now, with that out of our system what do we do next? How do we keep our lives and sense of self? How do we remain committed social justice warriors while not letting anger corrode us?

I have a four-point list I call the Four Es for Not Letting Your Anger Ruin You. Embrace. Enforce. Exercise. Engage. You’re welcome to use them.

1. Embrace Spirituality. No one confuses me with being a kumbaya kind of guy. But I do feel that experiencing love and spirituality has a calming effect. Do breathing exercises, take yoga classes, read, or immerse yourselves in nature. It works.

2. Enforce Media Limits. Oh, where to begin. Who here posts on social media much more than they should?

I have traveled a lot this summer. I learned that if you don’t catch and comment on everything, you won’t actually miss anything. You will still live your life. Being untethered to a digital device, you might even reclaim parts of your life.

Still, those devices can be your friends here. The “news and information” that we consume so voraciously can be compressed, edited and categorized to prevent overload. Are you looking at every single site, or have you set up emails, texts, social media feeds, news aggregators and the like? If you haven’t, please make your media consumption more efficient.

You know, I love Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Trevor Noah. They are all quite gifted and the work they do is important. But think about how much your exposure to them might Let Your Anger Ruin You. Do you have to watch them every night? No. The video highlights are everywhere.

3. Exercise. How does being great at reading, thinking, writing and planning activism translate to exercise? I don’t know, but those endorphin releases definitely do clear the monkey mind. Each of us has one racing around inside. Reverend Meagan treasures her walks acrossProspectPark. There is running, yoga, bicycling, kayaking, wall-climbing. Lately, I’ve learned how good it feels to hit things without damage. I’ve joined a kickboxing gym.

However you choose to embrace exercise, think of it as self-care. Back in March, Reverend Ana delivered an amazing two-part homily on Anger Management. It was in response to some local violence, and how we can regulate and look after ourselves. If you missed it or want to hear it again, I suggest listening at the FUUB website…

4. Engage. Everyone needs guidance. Paige Carlson gave me some beautiful guidance by editing what I wrote for today. She did a brilliant job in making sense of my mash-up of ideas. That happened because I didn’t just internalize what I needed. Don’t be afraid. People you don’t know are looking for someone to listen, to share ideas with. It takes courage and restraint to remain humanized in a world that seems to want you to be inhuman. I try to make staying human my responsibility to myself. I don’t always succeed, but I do try.

One more word on this.. It can mean engaging with people you don’t agree with. No, I don’t suggest trying gentle dialogue with David Duke. But great societies like ours have a long tradition of engaging in fair-minded debates with people we don’t agree with. Yes, we will get angry with each other, as Heather Heyer’s mother said. But DON’T LET YOUR ANGER RUIN YOU, OR TRUMP WINS!

Part of engagement means thinking about your own family and friends. How rough were the holidays last winter because of the election? Do you really want to isolate yourself from otherwise good people?

Unless you’ve been told you’re hated and not welcome any more, disowned or abused, perhaps now is the time to reach out a friendly hand. Recognize that we all make mistakes and accept that almost everyone is struggling with this. Believe that it was not everyone’s intention to tear us apart and polarize us further. Take it to heart that there really are good people in the world we don’t agree with.

Try. Pick who it is carefully, but try. All I ask is that you avoid a tone of “I Told You So.” Think of how you have felt whenever someone has thrown that at you. That is a form of compassion and love too.

One Can Look Back in Anger. I know I do sometimes. But what about looking ahead? Can you do it without anger? Darn good question.

I know we can all find the light. Let’s look ahead. I have come to know many of you here. You are all beautiful and compassionate human beings. I hope that whatever you take from what I’ve offered today is of help in facing a difficult world.

Please join me in singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” on your lyric sheet, attached. And thank you so much for your time!


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We have all kinds of tremendous problems in our city, our country and the world.  I’ve concluded that we speak out most effectively against harm and injustices to the innocent that hit close to home.

I am angry about the pace at which people on bicycles and walking are getting hit, mangled, mutilated and killed.

Yesterday, there was a mistrial despite overwhelming evidence against Marlon Sewell, who mowed down Victoria Nicodemus on Brooklyn’s Fulton Street with his Chevrolet Suburban in late 2015. Mr. Sewell ‘s vehicle had gas fumes, he was on medication that made him drowsy, and he lied to police about the circumstances of his losing control. Yet one juror decided this trial had to be about race, not justice and  called it an accident. The judge had no option but to declare it a mistrial. #CrashNotAccident

A few Sundays ago, my family and I were marshals in the inaugural 15-mile family ride of the 28th annual NYC Century Bike Tour. It was a beautiful day, and most riders had a great day.

Five riders didn’t. At 9am, while waiting at a red light in Borough Park, they were hit by a drunk driver. One woman is in very serious condition after being dragged under the driver’s minivan.  Her injuries include liver lacerations, intra-abdominal bleeding, traumatic brain injury and a spleen removal.

My brother-in-law came upon the horrible scene. He said he was reminded of how a precious human life can be altered in seconds.

In this case, the driver has been charged with driving while intoxicated. His blood alcohol level of .266 was twice the legal limit. He was also driving with a suspended license.

The ride’s organizer, Transportation Alternatives, is doing everything it can to ensure that the NYPD’s investigation is thorough. That isn’t always the case. Too often, the attitude of police investigators is that most of these crashes are “accidents.” They’re not. #CrashNotAccident

The very next morning, an unidentified woman riding a Citi Bike was struck by the driver of a ten-wheel truck on 7th Avenue near the corner of 30th Street on Monday morning. The victim was pinned under the vehicle and transported to Bellevue Hospital with body trauma. The driver and victim yelled at one another after the crash, witnesses told DNAInfo. Six pedestrians have been injured at the intersection of West 30th Street and 7th Avenue since 2009. The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed. #CrashNotAccident

In my home town of Oceanside, New York, a high school freshman was hit by a car that apparently didn’t stop at an intersection. The severity of her injuries suggest that the driver didn’t even slow down to a reasonable speed. I know that intersection well, both as a cyclist and a driver.  At times, the Nassau County Police have stepped up enforcement to keep it safe there. But no one was there that day. #CrashNotAccident

Remember children like Samuel Cohen-Eckstein, Cooper Stock and Allison Liao. They were hit and killed by reckless, inattentive and/or speeding drivers. #CrashNotAccident

Whenever these tragedies occur, there are inevitably online comments about the rudeness of cyclists who don’t stop at red lights, who are aggressive, who threaten, who jump ahead of motor vehicles at stop lights. My response to that is, what’s your point? Does that justify the harm to them?

Thousands of drivers in New York City are injuring and killing their fellow New Yorkers, yet our city’s District Attorneys let them get away with it. According to a report issued by Transportation Alternatives, fewer than 1% of the drivers involved in roughly 4,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 that resulted in injury or death were charged with a crime.

“Not a single one of the DAs offices is really doing its job when it comes to holding dangerous and reckless drivers accountable,” TA director Paul Steeley White says. “The DAs are just not present for a whole class of serious injury and critical injury cases,” “They’re just not paying attention.”

In 2013, cab driver Mohammed Himon jumped the curb outside of Rockefeller Center and struck tourist Sian Green, causing her foot to be amputated. Himon admitted to being agitated at a cycclist when it happened, but he was never charged by Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Jr.

In all this, motor vehicles are the chief maimer and killer. Almost every day, we hear about a driver who plows into a sidewalk and crashes into a storefront. The police call it an accident, or say that it is somehow the vehicle’s fault rather than the driver’s. It’s not. #CrashNotAccident

I am a cyclist, but I am not anti-car. Motor vehicles aren’t going anywhere. But the pro-automobile environment we live in is changing. We cannot have carnage, we have to get along, and Share The Road has to start somewhere. That starts with law enforcement officials who treat drivers in crashes as suspects, the same way they are supposed to treat drunk drivers.

As it stands now, they look for ways to blame the victim. That is particularly galling when the victim is dead.

Last week, my first-grader was proud of herself. for being able to ride the length of our city block by herself. I’m proud of her too. What I want now is her to be safe doing so in any community. The same goes for any rider or walker.


We Did It For The Boys: Let’s Give Megyn A Chance

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Yesterday on Facebook I posted a snarky take on the disastrous first week of Megyn Kelly’s much-hyped Today Show hour. I called it “a perfectly Trumpian bowlful of Not Good.”

On her Monday debut show, Kelly asked a “Will & Grace” superfan if the popular sitcom had made him gay. Kelly also told him that she hopes “the gay thing” works out for him. Yes, she said that. “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing must have screamed at NBC publicists for being a part of this. She says she was “dismayed” about the comments and regrets going on the show.

Then came yesterday. Look, at this point Jane Fonda is a Hollywood legend, not a radical firebrand. Pressing her about plastic surgery is mean stuff, and pretty tone-deaf. It’s 2017. Most of Kelly’s viewers aren’t shouting “Hanoi Jane” at the screen.

Pushing Jane Fonda to say “let’s not go there” about plastic surgery proves Megyn Kelly isn’t fully transitioned to morning TV yet.

For these missteps, Megyn Kelly is being mercilessly criticized. http://time.com/4955569/megyn-kelly-today-show-review/ It’s not undeserved, but let’s be fair. Anyone who works at Fox News needs deprogramming before re-entering civilized society. And it’s really hard to consider NBC News to be civilized society.

Still, let’s give Megyn a chance. If NBC is patient, history may well be on her side.Take a look at the boys who have walked a mile in her shoes.

– Jay Leno. Even if he had handled the transition well — which he didn’t — Leno took over for JOHNNY CARSON. It was inevitable that he would pale in comparison, and he did. It took about 3 years for Leno to get sea legs. Conan O’Brien was equally adrift for a few years.

– Jon Stewart. When he took over “The Daily Show” from that smirky guy whose name I cannot remember back in 1999, Stewart was not an A-lister. He was not considered a first-rate standup comic nor a political mind. We all know that Stewart proved otherwise and made that show an institution for the next 16 years.

– Trevor Noah. Stewart’s success meant that his successor would be unfairly measured in comparison. It took Donald Trump to help Noah find his sea legs. He is sharp, insightful, funny, yet very different than the last guy. Yet many still miss Stewart.

– Stephen Colbert. When he took over David Letterman’s slot on CBS, Colbert was being compared not just to Letterman but…Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report.” The initial disappointment in his new show probably had to do with viewers still expecting that mock-Bill O’Reilly character. But like Trevor Noah, Colbert found his voice in 2016. The show is his now.

Megyn Kelly says she doesn’t want to “be political.” That’s consistent with a 9am network show. But it’s going to be hard. Kelly made her bones being castigated in the most vulgar way by Trump. How long can that be resisted?

But I do see a way out of this. Her producers have to first recognize that Megyn Kelly is considered an ice queen. She is not Kelly Ripa. She cannot get away with prattling endlessly about herself, her kids, sex with her husband, shopping, etc.

No, my suggestion is that Megyn Kelly show some humility, humanity and vulnerability. How about a week in Puerto Rico – living in tents and helping to provide food and aid to hurricane victims?

Which Cabinet Members Will Turn on Trumpie?

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Remember the first “Ocean’s Eleven” movie? George Clooney lays out the casino robbery plan and asks the assembled crew, “are you in or out?”

Which members of Trump’s cabinet would turn on him because he’s nuts?

Given our dire situation, Vice President Michael Pence may have to find his cojones  very soon. If the President is that mentally ill,  Pence can invoke Amendment 25, Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution. That means he can tell Congress that the President is   unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

To do this, Pence needs the backing of 8 serving Cabinet members of the Trump Administration.


So who would do this? Personally, I think Pence would have nine who don’t want their reputations further tarred by Trump. Here they are:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This guy ran Exxon/Mobil to record profits. Now he walks a dangerous line every day, wondering what the lunatic a few blocks away will Tweet! With the White House dictating foreign policy, Tillerson is clearly tired of having his hands tied. And yeah, Trump saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. This is a general who talks to other generals. We know that all of them are nervous with Trump having the codes. And yeah, Trump saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin. Shulkin is a government mainstay, a bureaucrat in the best sense of the word. He has a reputation for actually caring about his job and genuinely wants to make VA better. With budget cuts, non-action and phony talk, it is likely that Shulkin sees Trumpie as not helping his agency. And yeah, saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Trump has been saying that her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, should resign. Aside from the fact that she can’t get anything done either, that doesn’t go down well. And yeah, Trump saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta. Acosta realizes that one cannot be an effective Labor Secretary when your President hates working people. And yeah, Trump saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. While Zinke is not opposed to use of public lands for development, Trump’s language and lack of actual policy on it is too roughshod for Zinke. While he wants to swing back at regulation like the others, Zinke also understands that wholesale slaughter of public lands isn’t a good legacy for him. And yeah, saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Treasury is hamstrung by a White House without any time to do analysis of economic policy. Many jobs are vacant and many programs are on hold. Mnuchin is close to Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, who has given up on Trump. Oh, and he’s Jewish and said not to be thrilled with Trump saying that there are some good Nazis.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Billionaire vulture capitalist Ross saw this job as a prestige move, as did most of his predecessors. It’s not with Trump in the White House. He already divorced one political whack job.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions is temporarily back in Trump’s good graces. Still, it is hard to believe he doesn’t want revenge for being dissed so publicly. He supported Trump before anyone in Congress, and THIS is what he gets? On top of which, if he stays on and Mueller’s report goes easy on his Russian meetings, Sessions might reclaim some small measure of moral ground. At least as much as someone like Jeff Sessions can. I don’t get the sense he cares about the Nazi/KKK stuff that much.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry are probably fine with Trump staying. They are active destroyers of their own agencies. They hold locked ideological mindsets and very little understanding of their mission. Given that Trump gave them their jobs as favors, they seem unlikely to defect. OK, perhaps Carson could be swayed by Vice President Pence. On the other hand, he is just as likely to forget how he meant to vote.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue are unknowns. Since General John Kelly took over as White House Chief of Staff earlier in August, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security is Elaine Duke. I have no idea what she’d do if faced with something so daunting.

What do you think?





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