Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why I'm voting for Donald Trump*

Election Day is nearly here, and though I have scant time for blogging these days, I felt compelled to weigh in once again. I’m not exactly excited to do so, but these are the times we live in. Devoted readers may recall that I called the 2012 election a “miserable slog.” Who was being naïve then, Kay?

Not impressed

Hillary Clinton is one of the weakest presidential nominees we have seen in a very long time. Barack Obama took her by surprise in 2008 because she is inept at putting forward a vision, does not inspire confidence in anything, and comes across as fake and foolish. She learned no lessons from her 2008 campaign, and if it weren’t for the pressure and passion of Bernie Sanders and his supporters, she would have had no raison d’être in this one. Sanders at least gave her something to push against and a reason to adopt some of his vision. Without that influence she would have been even more adrift.

Her supposed scandals do not interest me as they are not exactly scandalous. Her handling of them tends to be relevant. For instance, she did not initially reveal she had pneumonia because she is short-sighted, defensive, and has no perspective on how these things play out in public. Look no further than her idiotic campaign slogan: “I’m With Her.” What kind of vision for America is that? She may well have just used “Follow Me.”

She deserves credit for her performance in the debates, but aside from those three victories, the rest of her campaign has been full of backward thinking, defensiveness, and clumsy instincts. From the start of the general election, the strategy has been to pick up Republican voters when it should have been focused on turnout all along.

Therefore it is fair to assume that her presidency will be one full of missteps, questionable decisions, defensive posturing, and bad prioritization. I believe she is probably a good person who on many levels means well. But she’s a mediocre public figure who will never inspire the nation. And I doubt she will take the needed steps to fix what is broken in our politics, chiefly the corrupting influence of legalized bribery which influences all policy nowadays.

On the other hand

There is another choice. Unfortunately, that choice is Donald Trump. This is one of the most despicable, self-serving individuals on the planet. He lies more easily than he breathes. To call him willfully ignorant would imply that he's even capable of looking beyond his own nose. He’s a scam-artist who has filed for multiple bankruptcies to avoid paying his debts. Some billionaire... We know for certain that a Trump administration will be the most incompetent, least accountable, and likely most scandalous in history. He is a small, pathetic man who told Clinton at the debate that under his administration “you’d be in jail.” Of all the people in the world, it would be hard to think of a more unacceptable candidate.
Image result for trump dumb
OK, nobody’s perfect. I lied in the title of this posting. I was trying to be provocative. Because what kind of sensible person in their right mind would ever vote for Donald Trump? Can you seriously imagine me doing that? How ridiculous! I would vote for George W Bush, Ross Perot, Warren G Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Ann  Coulter, or Britney Spears before I would cast a vote for this moronic clod. But I wanted to put that down in virtual ink just to see how absurd it looks. Funny joke, eh? Except…

But here we are

Somehow, more than 40% of the United States disagrees with me about Trump. So many people choose to put their faith in a boorish, inept buffoon. To be sure, part of the problem has to do with his opponent. And of course there are a lot of idiots and crazy people out there.

But still. There is clearly something very wrong with the United States of America. Most brainy folks have spent this season trying to understand the Trump supporters. Why do they follow this gasbag? Why do they ignore his interminable faults? Why do they excuse his vulgarity? Is it because they’re racist? Because of economic anxiety? Because they prefer an authoritarian figure?  Who the hell cares? When Trump threatened Clinton with jail at the debate, it was followed by hootin' and hollerin' from his supporters. Seriously.

The Republican Party has long ago dropped any pretense for reason, honest debate, or even a belief in democracy. We all live in our echo chambers now, but it just so happens that in the US the right-wing echo chamber has the doors shut tight to truth and light. Belief is more important than honesty, and the party has been gradually exploiting it further and further. So of course their supporters went for the most mendacious blowhard on the stage. During the chaos of their primary, it was fun to throw their 2012 slogan back in their faces: “You built this.” Funny, eh?

As others have written more eloquently than I can, Trump is not the cause of these problems, he is merely a symptom. His arrival was inevitable. Again, the GOP brought this not only on themselves, but to all of us. Thanks a lot, guys.

What to do

As mentioned, I’m not #withher, but I am sure as hell not with them. I no longer care to understand why they behave the way they do. I'm done trying to find sympathy with those who willfully embrace ignorance. If you live in America, you have to live with the rest of us. You don't get to blame everyone else for everything that's wrong in your life, especially if you purposefully avoid truth and reason. We need to repudiate them, not seek greater understanding. They have to hear that racism, xenophobia, ignorance, and hate are not congruent with the concept of America.And that means voting the GOP out of office for starters.

But it goes deeper than that. There is a sickness in our country, and ceding legitimacy to feelings based entirely on bullshit is what has been feeding the sickness more than anything else. Freedom of religion and thought is critical. But it does not mean freedom to believe in alternative realities and let those fantastical beliefs drive real-world decisions. And how could someone vote for Donald Trump if they weren’t buying every fantasy?

I do not arrive at this point easily. I feel I am condemning nearly half of my nation. But just look at that loser nutjob at the top of the ticket they keep making excuses for. And when he loses they will still claim belief in Paul Ryan’s absurd tax plan, that climate change is a hoax, and that ACORN stole the election. Enough already. 

I always like to end these with a fitting tune. Here you go:

Monday, February 1, 2016

In Memoriam : Walter W. Reed

I have made only a few mentions of my father in this and my other blogs. Though if you look at many of the postings, you will see his comments spread across all kinds of topics, always with an encouraging message of support. He passed away two weeks ago, and as low as I feel right now, I have the urge to do something. And so writing a post about his life is what feels right to me. I’ll start at the beginning.

Lucky to survive

My father was born Werner Rindsberg in 1924 in Germany. His devout Jewish family lived in the small town of Mainstockheim. He played a lot of soccer and helped his father with the family wine business. As Germany fell into the hands of the Nazi party, their lives quickly changed. On Kristallnacht, he was arrested along with my grandfather. Because he was only 14 years old, my dad was returned home after three days My grandfather was sent to Dachau for several weeks and returned weakened and silent about what had happened to him. My grandparents then took the courageous step of sending my father to Belgium with a group of refugee children. He would never see his parents or brothers again.
Kurt, Werner, and Herbert Rindsberg
When the Nazis invaded Belgium he fled with nearly 100 other children to the south of France. They found refuge in a small farming community that still has fewer than 100 inhabitants. After nearly two years, he had the good fortune of receiving a visa and arrived at Ellis Island a just few months before the Pearl Harbor attack.
Werner Rindsberg and best friend Walter Strauss
He began work as an apprentice in a tool and die shop in New York, but was soon drafted into the army. That gave him the right to US citizenship, and he took the opportunity to change his name to Walter Reed. He then returned to Europe, arriving in Normandy less than a week after D-Day. Thanks to his skills in French and German, he was moved in to a position as a translator and interrogator. When the war ended he remained in Germany in support of the denazification efforts. He returned to his village to find more questions than answers about his family’s whereabouts. Much later he would learn that they perished in gas chambers in Poland.

An American

Returning to the US, he attended the Missouri School of Journalism, and in time various jobs across Midwest brought him to Chicago. Until he proposed to my mom, all who knew him believed he was born in New York City and that his parents had died in a car accident. He was always open and honest with us about his past, but we also understood this was something we kept within the family. He long felt that the Nazis had already taken so much away from him, that he did not want to let them ruin anything else in his life. That meant a conscious choice to be an American and fit in. On top of his career, he was always an active member of the community, working with various groups to help make a positive impact. This ranged from serving on boards of service organizations, to award-winning leadership in the Rotary Club, to he and my mom taking in Hmong refugees in the 1980s.

Accidental Historian

Some time after his retirement, with all us kids grown up, a return to the place where he and those 100 children were hiding opened up a new chapter in his life. He learned that most of them had survived and were in regular contact with each other. They had been looking for him for a long time. He soon “came out of the closet” as a holocaust survivor and began to tell his personal story publicly. What followed was nearly two decades of education, story-telling, and documenting his and others’ history. He organized reunions of his former companions in Chicago and at the site itself in France. He spoke to high schools and colleges in the US and across Europe. We are fortunate to have audio and video of some of these discussions. I can’t wait to share them with my children once they are old enough to appreciate them.
A high school classroom in Germany
As part of this process, my father became actively involved in a project to tell the story of these refugee children. An author who had previously published work about Jewish rescuers wanted to write a book detailing the history. My father enthusiastically offered his support with the research. Unfortunately, the author died rather early in the process. When no other option availed itself, my dad decided he would write the book himself. After ten years of research and writing plus another four hustling to get a publisher, his book came out last November.
Proudly unveiling the book cover

Always There

The above is an amazing story of a life truly lived, one I’ve told many times. But it’s not really what’s on my mind or why I’m writing this now. I’ve always wished I were more like my father. His innate ability to focus and continuously get things done ahead of time never came easily to me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more reliable. Regardless of his age, he continued to deliver. Seriously, who publishes a heavily-researched non-fiction book at the age of 91?

As a father, he never missed any of our sporting events or concerts. He and my mom went to my brother’s post-punk shows at the Fireside Bowl and later his electronic shows at nightclubs, even when they took the stage at 2AM. Whatever I needed that he could provide, I usually didn’t even have to ask. He just took care of it.
When I was 14 he decided it was high time for his sons to learn to ski. So he drove us out Colorado and skied the week on his own while we took lessons. He was 65 at the time. He kept skiing well into his 70s. He and my mom did biking trips across Europe every summer. Every summer including the last one when he was 91.

When I got married in Buenos Aires, he gave a phenomenal speech in Spanish. This, even though my father did not speak Spanish. It was all anyone could talk about for weeks.
He was probably too strict with me and my brothers when we were young. But he did us the great favor of evolving as we grew up. That may have started shifting when he had a heart attack in 1985. (1985! He made it another 30 years beyond that…) Or perhaps opening himself up to his true past allowed his softer side to emerge and eventually take over. That trajectory continued over decades only to reach its pinnacle in his interactions with his granddaughter. How fortunate that we visited Chicago over the holidays and had two more weeks of fun. In our last conversation, he said how much joy being with her provided him. My dad went out the way he would have wanted. He didn’t suffer, and he was at one of the most content periods of his life.
Of course I have all the typical feelings, taking for granted that he would live forever. After everything he had survived and how capable he still was… what else was I going to think? (Some of my friends in Argentina called him “Highlander.”) I know. Everyone does this. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
I feel his absence at every moment of every day, even though I’m an ocean away. I think about how their house is emptier. My family is emptier. But I reflect on all the guidance and wisdom he passed on to me, and feel overwhelmingly lucky to have received it all. I can’t yet fathom that he won’t be able to do that for me anymore.

A series of sacrifices and miracles granted him survival, and without question he made the most of his life. I'm so proud of him, and I know my grandparents surely would have been, too. So many of his friends and acquaintances in these last two weeks have told me that my father was a great man, and I agree. But they don’t know the half of it.

For those interested in my father's book, I personally found it gripping and relevant, biased though I may be. You can buy it here.

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