Knocking on Heaven’s Door?

No, I won’t dance on this man’s grave. Instead, let’s try to leave ourselves open to our own prejudices and fears to discover deeper connections, to let our own humanity shine through.

fred-phelps-wildrose-signsIn what might perhaps be poetic justice, vultures circle over another who fed off of the dead. The Daily News reported yesterday of the encroaching death of Fred Phelps, who rose to infamy with his hate-cult the Westboro Baptist Church by picketing funerals, rubbing acid into the fresh wounds of the bereaved to draw spectacle to his own brand of radical homophobia.

Phelps first came into the public’s consciousness in 1998 when he picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the twenty-one year old boy killed in Laramie, Wyoming, the victim of “gay bashing” so severe that the beaten and tortured body of Shepard that was left by his murderers was famously mistaken for a scarecrow by the cyclist who found him.

Despite an outcry of love and support for Shepard around the globe, Phelps and his family attended the funeral and as Shepard was laid to rest, cameras zoomed in on the words, “God Hates Fags!” and “Matt in Hell!” and upon the elder church leader’s face, where it has remained ever since.

There’s been a lot of speculation about the nature of Phelp’s homophobia –questions about why he is so fixated on the sexual practices of those he professes not to understand. There’s a lot of prose to get caught up in in the New Testament. To focus on gay sex, and to blame it for the downgrade of all humanity, veers beyond the extreme and into psychological territory. It leads me to believe that Phelps is a closeted homosexual, projecting his self-hatred on the world. Some believe that he was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, and that his pent up hatred stems from the shame and emotional damage that it caused.

Kerry Lauerman, former Editor-in-Chief of Salon Media Group and current Co-Founder and CEO of The Dodo wrote a feature on Phelps for Mother Jones a decade ago. On a recent Facebook post, Lauerman speculated that he “might just be nuts.” During his interaction with Phelps, he noted “one odd detail that always stuck with me is how he completely freaked out when he thought I’d asked him if he ever had a gay experience (I’d actually asked whether he’d ever known anyone who was gay). As years have gone on, and it’s become so clear how many of the worst homophobes — the Roy Cohns, George Rekers, the countless ministers caught with their pants down — were closeted gay men crazed by self-hate and/or fear, I often think back to that Phelps freakout and wonder if it wasn’t a pretty clear tell.”

It came out later that Matthew Shepard’s killer was gay as well.

We could point to the hypocrisy and get busy designing our own picket signs to carry at his funeral. The Facebook posts I’ve seen so far say, “God Hates Phelps!” But that would be wrong. And hateful. And exactly what he would want.

George Takei, actor, gay rights advocate and most recently, social media personality stated on Facebook:

“I take no solace or joy in this man’s passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding “God Hates Freds” signs, tempting as it may be.He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end.”

I think the world will soon lose a tortured soul, someone whose prejudices and fears became so encompassing that they will live on as his legacy. His tombstone might read: Here lies another so married to his righteousness that it clouded out any humanity.

How sad for him.

As for the rest of us, we move forward, opening ourselves up to cracks in the certainties of our opinions. Through those cracks, we might consider the scope of where we have been wrong. It takes bravery to look there, to study our own psyches for doubt or uncertainty where once there was none.

Light is painful when it first touches your eyes.

No, I won’t dance on this man’s grave. Instead, let’s try to leave ourselves open to our own prejudices and fears to discover deeper connections, to let our own humanity shine through.

Let that be our legacy.

“Frozen” Progress in Gay Rights

But some of your kids, some of them are gay. And it’s not because society normalized it. It’s not because Disney taught them it was okay.

We might have been the last of the elementary school set to watch the film Frozen. My six-year-old daughter had heard about it from all of her friends, and had even been introduced to the music by her classroom teacher so that when the character voiced by Idina Menzel belted out “Let it Go,” Anna was right there with her last week, singing along to every lyric.

My kids have always been sensitive. My son has a particular reaction to the key of E in music – it’s an immediate guttural response, and renders him to tears without him knowing why. It goes straight to the heart, and is the reason most lullabies are composed in that key. My daughter reacts emotionally to movies, as I do. When she’s older, I’m sure there are PMS-riddled marathons in our future: Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, etc. We’ll wash down salty popcorn with chocolate and tears and revel in our womanhood.

The prequel to this: Disney. Because my kids were so emotionally sensitive, I’ve always had to be careful with what I showed them, so as far as they are concerned, Finding Nemo begins at the “First day of school!” scene and not the one where the mother and her thousands of eggs are killed, leaving baby Nemo motherless and the Albert Brooks character widowed (widowered?) But if I wanted to cut the sad parts out of Frozen, we would have had to come in at the hour forty mark and only watch the last ten minutes. Anna cried until the reconciliation of the last scene.

It was a devastating film, not because the parents died (of course they did, this is Disney!) but because it demonstrated the persecution of gay Americans.

I’ve written before about how important it is to me to encourage empathy in my children.  Someone at Disney was having a similar conversation.

The film centers on Elsa who has a magic power that her parents and society deem dangerous. Even though a group of magic trolls declare she was “born this way,”  she’s hidden away (almost literally in a closet) and forbidden to interact with people. Later, she’s cast from society to live in her own frozen castle of which she can be the queen who lets her freak flag fly in isolation, until her sister shows an act of love and “thaws” the town who learn to accept and celebrate her “gift.”

Disney couldn’t have chosen a better time to premiere this film. Uganda’s brutal anti-gay political stance has reached global awareness with the World Bank delaying much-needed funds.  It took Jan Brewer to veto laws in Arizona that would make discrimination legal.  And in the wake of the winter Olympics at Sochi, where gay rights activists were loud in opposing Russia’s backwards attitude toward gay “propaganda.” What those who change their Facebook profile pics to rainbow-hued Olympic rings might not have realized is that even though progressive legislation has pushed through same-sex marriage in some states, many parts of America are just as, if not more, regressive and punishing toward the LGBT community as Russia. Russia, in fact, legalized sodomy in 1993. A belated right of a wrong, you say? America de-criminalized it ten years after Russia. You might say we are “frozen” in mindset and attitude.

Eight US states have banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Two states (South Dakota and Missouri) have laws that prevent anti-bullying policies. Let that sink in. In Alabama and Texas, teachers are required by law to describe homosexuality as “abhorrent” and “criminal.

Furious anti-gay opponents have come out against the film, claiming it’s an attempt to indoctrinate our children into the mindset of those pushing a “gay agenda.”  They decry the film as trying to “normalize” homosexuality, afraid that if their children recognize gayness not as an abomination, but as a persecuted minority devoid of civil rights in this modern age in a free country, they just might identify a bit. A portion of them might feel okay with any same-sex attraction they feel. They might be tempted to wrestle out of closets parents, churches, and society has put them in.

But most of them won’t. Statistically, most of them are straight. But some of your kids, some of them are gay. And it’s not because society normalized it. It’s not because Disney taught them it was okay. frozen scene saveIt’s not because they were raised by gay parents or because gay marriage was legalized in your state. It’s because they are gay.

Frozen is a love story. It’s about two sisters who come together, recognizing the bond of love between them. It’s about a child who comes to accept and celebrate the gifts she’s literally closeted away from society and eventually castigated for. To use the language of the devout, the broader story shows how we are all God’s children, brothers and sisters.

Some of those children are gay. Not because they have been indoctrinated, but because they have been made that way by a Creator. And to criticize the work of that creator, to say that it is flawed or wrong, or to suggest that it should be banned or hidden, seems a bit blasphemous to me.

But I have hope that with each generation, hearts and minds will thaw.

The Age of Political Psychosis

And the world turns and iPhones capture our every thought and experience, despite being built upon what Louis CK describes as “Asian suffering.” Welcome to the future. Sure looks a lot like the past.

Happy Birthday Mac!On this, the 30th birthday of the Mac, I believe it’s time for some reflection. Steve Jobs has become the patron saint of college dropouts; his penchant for the aesthetics of technology is the stuff of legend. We mourn the loss of an American visionary, and sweep the bad stuff under the carpet of good taste. It’s best not to speak ill of the dead, or to mention the unspeakable horror their advancements have brought into the world. After all, Jobs certainly didn’t invent low-wage factory workers, and those in China (happy new year!) who need safety nets strewn between buildings to catch them from suicidal plunges might just as well have been in a similar situation creating other types of products had Steve Jobs never walked this earth.

Those are legitimate arguments and I agree with them for the most part. Except for the fact that the enormous profits made by Apple executives might have gone to make effective changes in the lives of the factory workers. He might have taken his dynamic vision and applied it to the working model so that suicide nets could just be there for show.

No matter. He’s dead and they’re not. And the world turns and iPhones capture our every thought and experience, despite being built upon what Louis CK describes as “Asian suffering.” Welcome to the future.  Sure looks a lot like the past.

But hey! – that’s capitalism. That’s the system. And to criticize that system is to invite catcalls of the “patriotic” who throw words like “socialist” at you, with the same vocal inflections that one use might to say, “Asshole” – even if they can’t precisely define socialism beyond a widely circulated Facebook meme.

The broader implication of our mass consumption of Apple products is the disconnect between our decisions and their effects on human beings. It exemplifies an increasingly self-interested citizenry. Author and education advocate Henry Giroux calls this “Zombie Politics,” and its tentacles reach into all facets of our culture. “The notion that profit making is the essence of democracy,” Giroux said in an interview with Bill Moyers in November, “the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.”

If I had my druthers (and it’s my blog, so I get to indulge my druthers) I’d call this not Zombie Politics but “Psychopathic Politics.” And it just might be because I just watched the series finale of Breaking Bad. I came late to the Breaking Bad party and I enjoyed the recent Netflix-given phenomenon of binge watching where my husband and I subjected ourselves to all six seasons in just a few weeks.

Quite a few things struck me about Breaking Bad, but for our purposes here, I’ll focus on the killers. I lost count of all the murder victims, but I noted three types of killing: pragmatic, emotional, and apathetic. Sometimes these overlapped, like whTodd-Alquisten a victim was offed for a practical reason (he posed a threat) but the murder took an emotional toll on the killer. The more gut wrenching it was for a killer, the more dramatic the scene. The exception here is the character Todd, who killed people with an emotionless vigor, an emptiness that was truly terrifying. He didn’t bat an eye whether his victim was a child or a young mother, and even scarier, he never stopped to consider his alternatives. This was the only character who killed not for pragmatic necessity, but because he simply could. And that was most terrifying aspect of the show.

The name for someone who displays a complete lack of empathy is psychopath.

We witnessed this in one of the Columbine killers. While one of the two suffered from depression, which is a sense of rage usually turned inward, something fairly common among Americans, the other – the leader – was a full-on psychopath. He could not feel.

The truth is that few of us will ever come into contact with a full-on psychopath. Yet, it’s a psychosis we could extend to the encroaching culture that has tentacles that reach into our governing body. It’s a lack of empathy for the poor among us, a disconnect from the sick. It shows itself in victim blaming. A killer would rationalize by saying the victim “had it coming.” Politicians do it by justifying cutting food stamp programs for children with economics. As if money were the beginning and end of it, and empathy and ethics were inconsequential.

Ask any nursing mother to describe what happens when if she leaves her baby at home for a few minutes to run to the supermarket for diapers. Ask what her body’s reaction to a crying baby in the next aisle might be. A child she has no connection with, doesn’t even see. She’ll tell you that her breasts will automatically fill and begin to leak. It’s an embarrassing condition for those of us who have been there, but what it reveals is that we have an inborn, physical natural response to feed the hungry. It is in our very human nature. To divorce that from policy is unnatural. I might go so far as to say, inhuman.

Or we can give it a psychological diagnosis: psychopathic.

The larger question remains: is there a remedy? And can we ever wrestle control from those who withhold treatment in time to save ourselves?

Time to Put 2013 on a Shelf

Yes, the people who railed against a spy in our midst as evil and corrupt introduced a puppet, one who quietly recorded information about children in the privacy of their homes and reported it to a central division where that intel was documented for later use.

original2013 was a year of epic news stories. From the bombing at the Boston Marathon and New York’s Weiner/Spitzer political candidacy circus to Bradley Manning’s harsh sentencing and gender changeover to Chelsea, we were all glued to our televisions, smart phones, and Twitter newsfeeds. But the game changer, the story that broke and laid broken perceptions in its wake, were the revelations by Edward Snowden reported by then-Guardian journalist Glen Greenwald. My Facebook newsfeed was overtaken with articles opining about Snowden, statuses offering two-cents on Greenwald’s reporting, until the collective attention span was overridden with the next shiny object: Christmas.

The reactions to Snowden were as varied as the people reacting. Some christened him a hero while others dedicated their Facebook statuses to calling for his head. Some were blindsided by the insidious implications of the NSA spying program, so much broader than any of us dared to imagine, while some of us were nonplussed, having already figured that all that was private was ripe for plundering in the name of national security, and stating plainly that if you have nothing to hide, you had nothing to fear.

The reactions spanned the ideological fault lines. Liberals who had voiced loud opposition to the Patriot Act were largely silent as its expansion occurred on their beloved President’s watch and couldn’t be placed squarely on the shoulders of a one George W. Bush. California senator Dianne Feinstein was staunch in her anti-Snowden stance, calling for no clemency. And none other than Glen Beck tweeted, “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.” I think he meant for whom he has waited.  (I’m resolving to be less snarky about grammatical errors in 2014, but since it’s still ’13: for whom, for whom, for whom, Beck.)  The Republican Party, not usually constrained by pesky civil liberties, is torn between defending a spy program that promises the utmost in national security and pretend outrage because they don’t want to miss a chance at jumping on a perceived blunder by the president. There was little room for both views of Snowden under the same blanket of “patriotism.”

This argument about whether he was a whistle-blower or a spy was shifted aside by the friends who show up on the newsfeed of my social media info-blasts. The merging of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah into Thanksgivakkah interrupted the outrage and philosophical discussion. What came on its heels was a fairly recent tradition. An elf.

Upon a shelf.


Apparently, the day after Thanksgiving an elf appears in many (Christmas-celebrating) homes across America. Its job is to keep watch over the children and report any misdeeds to Santa, who would come down on them with swift punishment of the coal-bringing variety. The idea is that the children would adjust their behavior so that it would never get to that point. They would live in fear the five or so weeks before Christmas, well-behaved and docile, and then reap their rewards, American-style (bought on sale over the trampled bodies of the weak at Walmart.)

The pictures of the elf, moved nightly to show that he had flown to the North Pole and back after having a brief tete-a-tete with the Big Guy, became the staple of my Facebook newsfeed. He was often a trouble-maker, making messes all over the house, dutifully recorded by creative parents. Here he was in the bathroom, having squirted out all of the toothpaste. There’s a photo of the little guy TP-ing the Christmas tree! Now he’s in the kitchen where it looks like he’s shitting Hershey kisses onto thumbprint cookies.



A welcome break from Snowden indeed.

Yes, the people who railed against a spy in our midst as evil and corrupt introduced a puppet, one who quietly recorded information about children in the privacy of their homes and reported it to a central division where that intel was documented for later use. Those who voiced support for Snowden as a heroic figure instrumental in bringing to task an overreaching NSA program whose methods defied the very Constitution it seeks to protect brought in an elf to listen in on private conversations. If our children don’t flinch at the building of a monstrous compound full of every phone call/email/ and social media comment ever uttered in their lives, might it be because they’ve been conditioned?

Instead of making idiotic arguments of a fictional Santa Claus’ racial integrity, why don’t we look into the political implications of the elf. Or we could just tell the kids that if they have nothing to hide, they’ve got nothing to fear.

But that elf looks pretty damn creepy to me.


The NRA has made the anniversary of Newtown “Guns Save Lives Day,” with the same amount of tact and sensitivity as the Westboro Baptist Church.

newtownI dropped my children off in front of their elementary school last December 14th, taking notice of two security guards in bright red jackets. “You’re bringing in the big guns,” I said at the time to Mrs. C, the school aid whose job it was in the morning was to make sure parents pulled their minivans all the way through the circular driveway of the school so that traffic didn’t build up in the road. Parents rarely acknowledged her; mostly they slowed their cars to a grinding halt wherever they found it convenient, long enough for their Aidens and Isabellas to jump out in front of the crosswalk and run into the school. The sound of Mrs. C. yelling at the parents and chastising the children not to run was the music of our mornings. But that day, she had backup.

It wouldn’t be until later that afternoon when I would realize how prescient and ironic my “big guns” comment was. By then, twenty children in Sandy Hook elementary would be mowed down by rifle fire.

But my own kindergarten and second graders would be safe.

It is now a full year later. A year where we saw the opportunity for gun legislation reform squandered; a year in which we saw more mass homicides at the hands of gunmen; a year where we witnessed the NRA taking control of the national conversation and steering it away from the protection of children, inviting hysteria not to the fact that we have twenty-times more gun deaths in the United States than any other developed country in the world, but fear that President Obama is trying to usurp our second amendment rights. The NRA has made the anniversary of Newtown “Guns Save Lives Day,” with the same amount of tact and sensitivity as the Westboro Baptist Church.

With the exception of those we laid to rest since last December, we are  a year older now. My daughter, who was five last year, is now the same age as the children buried by devastated parents, while a sorrowful nation watched, holding a bit tighter to our own kids. We opined this year, in editorials and blogs. Mommies marched in Washington, politicians made great speeches. Governor Cuomo passed legislation restricting the amount of bullets a magazine could hold to seven, but later rescinded, as it proved impractical.

A national registry was never born, as it infringed on the rights of gun owners. In a year where NSA revelations showed us that nothing we say, text, or type is entitled to privacy, gun owners retained theirs.  In a year when we vowed to leave no stone unturned in an effort to make this country a safe place for children to go school and for parents to drop their little ones off without their hearts in their throats, we saw roughly 33,273 gun deaths.

In a country that has only grown in gun violence, politicians steer clear of any language suggesting that gun confiscation could have any relevance to the national conversation. We can argue about the reasons why gun culture is so pervasive in the US – whether video games inspire violence or whether violence in our movies, games, and art is simply a reflection of the reality of our lives; whether near-constant war inspires a battle-mentality on the home front; or whether our laws are too little or too weakly enforced  – but what remains is that we have become so desensitized to gun violence that we buried twenty 6 year olds without making one significant change.  The NRA and their supporters have only grown stauncher, more inspired, and more audacious.

Policy- and lawmakers don’t want to rock the boat by asking for an infringement on second amendment rights. And while we waste more time trying to fit the outdated usefulness and rhetoric of that amendment, people die. While gun supporters terrorize their audience into believing that only bullets will protect them from both criminals breaking into their homes and into the executive office, we stand on the sidelines and watch how the Tea Party has co-opted the Republican Party and steered our government to a grinding halt. We have seen districts get redrawn; voters become alienated from the voting process, and trust in democracy diminishes. We’ve already experienced a government takeover. And guns didn’t protect us.

This afternoon, Colorado witnesses yet another school shooting.

It seems to me that the time for tact has vanished along with the wasted time for opportunity. The boat cannot be unrocked.

The masses are the big guns of a democracy. It’s time to bring them out – and to say: We’ve had enough.

Cyber Monday War on Terror

By introducing drones as their premier method to deliver goods, has not only raised the bar on home delivery, but has unwittingly provided the solution and the end to what had prior seemed to be an endless War on Terror.

There’s no debate that the assassination of Osama Bin Laden struck a mighty blow into the heart of Al Qaida. It was a coup for the Obama administration and a much needed win for the Americans in the War on Terror.

But it ain’t over. Not by a long shot.

Before his forced resignation after the Rolling Stone article penned by Michael Hastings that shed light on covert and sometime insubordinate military operations, General Stanley McCrystal led surge tactics to bump up force on enemy combatants. We can argue about how successful he was, (Hastings, however, can no longer participate in this discussion) but what remains is that Al Qaida has regrouped and has grown in strength since. And that traditional methods of curbing their threats have stagnated.

So I say, change routes. The military industrial complex is overblown as it is. With the economy in tatters, it’s best to put our dollars in private business. Besides the refreshing lack of governmental bureaucracy, it’s the patriotic thing to do.

I’m not suggesting we reinvent the wheel here. has provided the template from which we can combine two of America’s most vested interests: military bloodshed and shopping. By introducing drones as their premier method to deliver goods, has not only raised the bar on home delivery, but has unwittingly provided the solution and an end to what had previously seemed to be an endless War on Terror.Amazon Drone


It works like this: The United States has a number of key enemies who have plotted against us. Now, all we have to do is make a small purchase (I think you might need to upgrade to Amazon Prime as well) and send it via drone to alleged terrorists.

For instance, by ordering a Hutzler Banana Slicer for Hassan Izz-Din, one of the terrorists responsible for the bombing of TWA Flight 847 who is living in Lebanon, we help to prop up the US economy, and eliminate one of America’s Most Wanted.

I would order a Bic Cristal for Her ballpoint pen for Abdul Rahman Yasin, who is at large for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

I’m buying a gallon of Tuscan whole milk for Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mughassil who is wanted by the United States in connection with the June 25, 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia. Not because I know he likes milk, per se, but because the reviews on Amazon are hys-terical.

Besides a drone in his stocking, Ayman al-Zawahiri is getting Accoutrements Horse Head Mask because although I’m sure the Godfather reference will be lost on him, since he’ll be dead, I amuse myself. Again, the comments.

And finally, for Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, believed to be responsible for the 1998 US Embassy bombing, I will send Uranium Ore via drone. Because what could go wrong there?

By cutting out the US Postal service in this endeavor, we give a nod to private corporation. By cutting out the US military in favor of, we send a strong message to the US public: shop local, act global. This is what real patriotism looks like.

Conspiracy: It’s What’s for Dinner.

Through it all, Barack Obama has held tightly to his cool, unflappable persona, leading me to believe that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

I think it’s fair to say that in the wake of the government shutdown and the laughable antics of the Tea Party, the GOP had their asses effectively handed to them in this latest election. Tea partier Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia was summarily defeated. So too Dean Young of Alabama. New York City elected its first democratic mayor since the early nineties. Democracy reigned across the land, despite voter ID laws designed to keep minorities and Democrats from voting.

All of it: the shutdown, Ted Cruz’s filibuster, the obstruction led by Tea Party wing-nuts has badly shaken the President. Except – it hasn’t. Through it all, Barack Obama has held tightly to his cool, unflappable persona, leading me to believe that there’s more to it than meets the eye. As it stands, this fringe element of the GOP shouldn’t have nearly the voice or the power to sabotage the US government. Yet, thanks to redistricting and gerrymandering, they have infiltrated congress to wield their strange and horrible revenge.

obama-coolBut something about it doesn’t sit right in my stomach. I suspect the story goes deeper than we’ve all been led to believe and that maybe Obama’s calm exterior is the clue we need to put it all together. Remember Syria? That country somewhere across the water from us, in the middle of a whole bunch of other countries that I can’t pronounce/know who they are? Remember how they were going to throw us into a third foreign conflict that had conservatives beating the drum wars (have the ever stopped?) and liberals picketing, recycling our fathers’ protest-wear of the 1960s?

In short, it was a chess game, the likes of which none of us saw clearly until the hand was dealt in John Kerry’s “slip” that if Syria was willing to give up their chemical weaponry, we were going to launch the missiles that were aimed at Syrian targets. It sounded to the world like an offhand comment, an impossibility, and an excuse to pacify the itchy fingers at the helm. But Syria, with Russia’s support, surprised us. They agreed. And most of us let out a sigh of relief.

And it was only after the smoke cleared that the public was able to see why Obama was able to keep his cool in the face of another bloody war: he knew what he was doing. He saw three steps ahead of any of us and played it out. Nothing to get all nervous about folks. I got this.

And so when I see that coolness in the face of domestic conflict in Congress that has organized opposition to every single thing he has ever proposed, I wonder how he doesn’t snap. Just once. Just a bit. An eye-roll. A bitten lip. A shouted obscenity.

But no.

So let’s look deeper at the actual result of the Tea Party’s invasion of the GOP. They have hijacked a powerful political party and taken away their credo of fiscal responsibility and small government and replaced it with a religious dogma that would stump Jesus. Conspiracy theorists have only grown more staunch in their assertions that Obama is really a Muslim socialist intent on waging war against the very country he purports to love. They’re waiting for the axe to drop. They think it might have something to do with his healthcare reform, that there has to be a sinister element to his attempt to revamp a disastrous and corrupt system and put affordable provisions in for the less fortunate among us.

Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman haven’t stopped to take a breath in their campaigns to enlighten the people to his evil doings. Fox News, in their fair and balanced efforts, pauses naught in their anti-Obama “news,” and Mitch McConnell has vowed to never stop his wave of obstruction. It’s enough to make a leader flip the eff out.

But not this guy.

Consider for a moment how his calm exterior has been a Teflon cover to which none of their vitriol sticks. Consider how the Tea Party-led GOP has succeeded in defeating food stamps for the very poor in hard economic times while clinging to tax breaks for the very wealthy, how redistricting has made their racist motives apparent to the masses, and how they shut down the entire government just to stage a temper tantrum that served only to illustrate how contemptible their positions have grown. Finally, consider how the Tea Party has succeeded where no Democrat ever could: in dividing a once-powerful club whose power was unmatched by anything the world had ever seen. Consider Obama’s ability to play a long game. Consider his chess-playing acumen.

Then tell me that Obama isn’t the biggest sponsor of the Tea Party “patriots.”

(Slow clap, Mr. President. And don’t worry – I’ll keep this between you and me.)

A Parent’s Acceptance

I love him for who is and who he is becoming every day. I love him despite the fact that he is showing early signs of Republicanism.

I had my first suspicions about my son when he was around three years old, which is consistent developmentally with what I’ve read about it. Although he was raised on a steady diet of folk tunes a la Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary, he started showing signs early on. I remember tantrums that lasted for hours when he wouldn’t get his way, full on displays of anger and frustration. And though I’d try to meet him halfway, like saying, “The red sippy cup is in the dishwasher, here’s a blue one,” he’d be  unresponsive and uncooperative.

Later, after his sister was born, I noticed some more troubling tendencies. If I asked him to share, he sometimes flat-out refused. When pressed, he might comply, but he’d divide his spoils in unequal proportion. He seemed to want all the goods for himself: toys, sweets, attention. Now, don’t misunderstand, he loves his sister. He believes that she deserves love, affection, and even protection, but he just thinks that these should be gotten of her own volition. That he is bigger and has easier access to the toys on higher shelves or a brownie on a counter where she can’t reach isn’t an unfair advantage to his point of view. He even once said that if God wanted her to have these things, he would have made her the older, taller, stronger one.  He thinks his birth order is the natural order of things.

He loves toy soldiers. He sets them up on the landscape of my dining room table, complete with all terrain vehicles, tanks, and jeeps. He’s accumulated hundreds of these plastic guys that hurt bare feet just as much as a legos when you step on them. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. Every Toys R Us gift card results in more military accoutrements. And no matter the state of our budget, he refuses to curb military spending.

I have one firm rule in my house. No guns. I hate them. Hate. Them. When he was born, that rule carried over to toys, but like most children, he found a way to make them out of sticks in the yard, legos, his fingers. And after he received his first Nerf Strike Blast Rifle purchased by a well intentioned friend on his fourth birthday, he’s been stocking up his arsenal at a steady pace. The fact that my husband loves the Styrofoam darts as much as he does doesn’t help my cause. Once, when I’d had enough, I attempted to confiscate his weapons, but he threw such a fit, saying that it was his right to own them. He thinks that right extends to even the NERF® N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 Blaster, which has a clip that holds 18 Elite Darts. With a range of up to 75 feet, it’s got long-range striking power and a lightning rate of fire.

My firm rule has met nothing but obstruction.

His father works in the mortgage industry, so it’s understandable that he would show an interest in finance. Yet, in a manner reminiscent of Alex P. Keaton, he seems to favor the big banks. “Bank of America looks good, right Dad?” he has been known to say. “How about Chase?”  He is not put off by the slicked back hair and unnatural coloring of Angelo Mozilo or the posturing of Jamie Dimon.

I love this kid. I love him with a love that encompasses the entirety of my heart, that knows no boundaries. I love him for who is and who he is becoming every day. I love him despite the fact that he is showing early signs of Republicanism. (We don’t talk about it much in my family, but his maternal grandfather was a Republican. It’s one of those things that skips generations.)

He doesn’t realize it. In fact, he attempts to mask it by telling us what we want to hear, by voting for Obama in his school election last year, and in his homework.
Nothing but a cover-up

But I know it. I knew for sure last night when we went shopping for Halloween costumes. Among the zombies and witches, the make-up kits that let you recreate blood and gore, there sat the masks. Clown masks, skeleton masks, that one from the movie Scream. And Obama. He picked that one up right away, then set it back down, looking under and beside it.

“What’s the matter, son?” I inquired after him, thinking something was wrong.

There was.

“Where’s the Mitt Romney mask?” he asked, not-so-innocently.


I wanted to tell him the truth. That the world is pretending Mitt Romney doesn’t exist anymore. That we want to pretend he never happened. And that the politicians rising in his wake are even more extreme, more outrageous, more zealous than he was. And that Paul Ryan is even still employed by the US government.

But that was a horror story too scary for even those surroundings.

Instead I took a long look at my son. And with a deep breath, I readied myself for all that is to come: his own self-realization when he figures out what this is inside of him, the bravery that it will take to come to us with this truth, the truth that he was born this way. I tried to imagine and accept the day when he says that he wants to marry a Republican.

But I’m not ready for that.

Let’s just say I’m evolving.

How the Grinch Stole America

Inspired by Ted Cruz’s reading of “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor.

Every Who in America

Deserves healthcare,

But a faction of Republicans

Think that isn’t fair.


That faction hates Obama, his whole administration

They’ll be happy with nothing but psychic castration

of the Democratic party and all that they’ve worked for:

Especially entitlements that are aimed at the poor.

But healthcare, “Oh this comprehensive bill

That is the one thing we really must kill.

Even though it’s been watered down,

Negotiated and shredded,

And made into the law of the land where it’s headed!

No, we must stop it! And right in its tracks!

We’ll come up with a plan that’s light on the facts.

Fervent obstruction – that’s what we do!

Blatant destruction of all that is good.

And when it’s all over,

When the smoke clears,

When the Whos realize we’ve preyed on their fears,

We’ll make something up

And put it on Fox news.

We’ll all get behind Bachman and Cruz.”

It might be that Boehner’s head isn’t screwed on quite right.

Some say that his tan was sprayed on too bright

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his balls were two sizes too small.

But whatever the reason – his balls or his tan,

Boehner sat on the Hill without a plan.

And in came the Tea Party with crazy beliefs

To cave to the rich and to give no relief

To the people out there who got them elected

Who saw in Obama not Christ resurrected

But a man with dark skin who was their greatest threat

The biggest socialist that they’d ever met.

Whose father was Kenyan and who hid his college papers.

It was enough to give old Southern women the vapors.

But the worst part of all wasn’t the unprovable facts,

But the fact that this left-leaning commie was black.

That’s the one thing they hated – the blacks blacks blacks blacks.

They hated that more than corporate tax.


His legacy was healthcare, so they vowed to defeat it.

Personal responsibility was their idea! They felt so cheated.

So instead of supporting it as they had in the past

They vowed to kill it and with it, the middle class.

“Repeal it again!” they cried, (forty-two times)

And they took up their time, not preventing crimes,

By legislating the laws that focus on safety

Like restrictions on guns – no that would be crazy.

They took over the House and made it their business

To obstruct and destruct and to ask no forgiveness.

They were deaf to the voices of people who need it

Welfare recipients could all just go beat it.

No matter that the people, like Cindy Lou Who,

A girl without money, just like me and you.

Whose mother is sick and they aren’t insured.

Because if you’re poor in the US there isn’t a cure.

And Cindy Lou has been home all semester

Her Head Start program was lost in sequester.

Her mother can’t work because they can’t afford a sitter.

And the steady decline put her health in the shitter.

She always worked, paid her taxes, did her fair share,

And now, when she needs it, they wanna defund Obamacare?

“You have the right to pursue happiness –

Whatever that means.

But healthcare is not part of the American dream.”

But the law was held up by the highest court in the land,

And Ted Cruz, well he got up to take a stand,

A filibuster to defund it – and he was sober.

But it was all set to start in October.

His idea didn’t work, the wheels were in motion,

But Cruz is playing a long game, he wants his promotion.

They would take the whole government and shut it right down!

Boehner’s like, “This isn’t a game, I’m not fucking around.”

But it’s too little too late, it was out of his hands.

He was backed into a corner and gave into demands.


And Obamacare came,

And in all the confusion,

The Whos failed to see it was just a delusion

To keep them from seeing the hostile takeover

By those who wanted to give a makeover

To that old paper that started it all

That said that we should be governed for all

And not a small faction

That represents one percent

(A very small fraction)

And quiets dissent.

But when a small group plots against us

That’s called sedition.

Like a cancer, it’s a preexisting condition.

The tyrannical forces didn’t come from the left.

It was gotten in plain sight, it was a blatant theft.

It came without guns, it came without tanks,

It started when they deregulated the banks.

We opened the door for the Tea Party bigots

And now the current’s too strong to turn off the spigots.

We need is to issue some slips that are pink

To start over in Congress before the ship we’re on sinks.

What we need is what they call a market correction –

We need to remember in the midterm election.

The End



Ted Cruz’s Elusive “Moment”

The old pathways of the Joe Bidens and Robert Byrds are outdated, cast-away like the crooners of yesteryear in favor of digitally remastered voice recordings.

My son is at that age where popularity and coolness have entered his consciousness. As much as I try to instill what’s important, it’s almost impossible to insulate yourself from the desire to be liked by as many of your peers as possible in the third grade. And so I see him trying: his hair is gelled into a perfectly coiffed faux-hawk. He can’t resist jumping on every opportunity to be the funny kid in class. And when a joke lands, he can’t keep from repeating it, until that dead horse is laying on his Air Jordan high-tops. He doesn’t have the life experience or maturity to know that cool happens when you stop trying (so they tell me) and that the more you try to contrive a funny moment, the less it is. To quote the movie Mean Girls, “Stop trying to make [it] happen.”

Our political superstars have risen up through the ranks in reality show-type peaks of popularity, in moments that have caught the public’s attention in just the right way, at the exact moment we were ready for it. Barack Obama’s poignant speech at the DNC in 2004 was a welcome break from the blandness of the candidates who had been presented in front of us, making them look old, boring and unintelligent by comparison. It was the platform from which he would later rise to the highest office in the country. Sarah Palin had her moment at the RNC four years later when she was thrust onto the world’s stage as John McCain’s running mate. Despite the fact that it would later be proven that she had a casual relationship with honesty and intelligence, she was a welcome diversion from the uptight white men who dominated the right. It was so powerful that she still commands huge audiences on speaking tours and on Fox News.

You’ve likely only heard of Wendy Davis of Texas since she famously filibustered the Senate in order to stave off crippling anti-choice laws in Texas. She drew ire from Governor Rick Perry and failed in her effort to stem the tide of anti-abortion legislation in her state, but that doesn’t matter. Because her stand against the vaginal-probe wielding Texas legislature captured the voice of the zeitgeist at the moment women’s rights abuses all over the country, but especially in Texas, were coming to a head. Davis’s filibuster, in her Mizuno Wave rider pink sneakers, was the moment a political star was born. She will likely use this momentum to run for higher office, and will be afforded newspaper column inches and prime time news show minutes for the foreseeable future. The political world is hers to lose.

So it makes sense why ambitious young politicians would attempt to skip the whole put-your-time-in-and-see-how-this-government-thing-works in favor of creating their own political superstar moments and rising to fame. This is a political culture brought to you by American Idol and other reality-show based fame contests. The old pathways of the Joe Bidens and  Robert Byrds are outdated, cast-away like the crooners of yesteryear in favor of digitally remastered voice recordings.

Ted CruzThese freshman politicians keep trying to find shortcuts by having their “moments.” You could see how badly Marco Rubio wants it. You could smell it on Rand Paul.

Case in point: Ted Cruz. Yesterday, Texas Senator Cruz threw his hat into the ring for super-stardom by staging a filibuster to defund the Affordable Care Act. Hey! If it worked for Wendy Davis, why wouldn’t it work for Cruz? Unfortunately for him, he sought to answer this question on the Senate floor, and not in his own head. And not by staying on topic and waging a legitimate filibuster, but by reading Dr. Seuss and his twitter feed in what wasn’t even a real filibuster. He was actually talking to hear himself speak, and to see himself on television screens and in column inches. But he’s become not the newly discovered darling of the Republican party that he’d hoped, but largely a joke who proved that he doesn’t understand how the government works or what a filibuster actually is. Even though he spoke for twenty-one hours, there was no way his “filibuster” could impact the Senate vote on the government funding bill. And so it was an empty grab for attention.

And that’s what I have tried to get across to my kid. You can’t force a moment to happen. You can’t contrive it. You can’t chase it. You have to put your head down and do your work. Because the harder you try, the more desperate you’ll seem.

And desperate never won a popularity contest.