Category: Social Justice


General Fearless:As, President Trump indicated, a combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom launched precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.  We thank them both.

One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people.  The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force. Probably more like 50%. It was something like the world has never seen before. As Bernie Sanders would say, ‘It was yuge.’

Last Saturday, the Assad regime deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians — this time, in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus.  This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime. The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air.  These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.

I can assure you we took every measure and precaution to strike only what we targeted and –– and we successfully hit every target and believe we have significantly cripple Assad’s capability to use chemical weapons in the future.

Now, I’ll take a few questions.”

Fake News Reporter:General, how did you assess success?

General Fearless:Let me show a graphic just received.

In these before and after photos, you can tell we struck an already previously destroyed target. If you look really close, through a microscope, you’ll see part of the roof in the ‘Before” photo may have been moved to the right in the ‘After’ photo.”

 Fake News Reporter:General, these pictures don’t show any differences?

General Fearless:Well, we struck at night to purposely limit damage against the enemy and reduce loss of life.

Fake News Reporter:Huh? I’m sorry General, that makes no sense.”

General Fearless:Look, someone was having a bad yesterday and throwing temper-tantrums. There wasn’t an 18-wheeler available to climb into and pretend to be a trucker. So, we let him play with over $100 million in missiles.”

Fake News Reporter:One last question General. Washington Post Reporter Jasmine El-Gamal recently wrote that Assad has been associated with words such as “monster,” “vicious” and “unacceptable” are being recycled in news statements and interviews. Given the unfathomable suffering that has beset the Syrian people at the hands of Assad, the unwillingness of the international community to threaten action unless the Islamic State (ISIS) or chemical weapons are involved, one element is noticeably and consistently absent: Syria’s civilians, who for the past several years have lived in a terrifying hell on Earth, often unable to leave their houses. Syrian Network for Human Rights estimated that the Assad regime had dropped nearly 70,000-barrel bombs since July 2012 — and sometimes forced people to watch as children slowly starved to death.

Am I correct in saying that the United States and their Allies are not ok with chemical weapons but ok with everything else?”

General Fearless:Yup, but we sent Assad a message.”

KingEddie Glaude Jr. made a stunningly insightful comment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. James Baldwin wrote, “... we had to invent the word “nigger” to justify the crime.”

In other words, if we wish to conceal ignorance and the openness of our own prejudice, create a word to cover it. Need to conceal your racism of Hispanics, call them ‘rapists.’ Need to dodge your hate of Muslims, classify them as ‘terrorists.’ Dislike a reporter or news service, call them ‘liars,’ ‘dishonest‘ and ‘fake news.’ Blame a company (Amazon) for congressional leadership inability to lead (US Post Office). Need to demean your predecessor(s), call them ‘cheatin‘ [sic].

Factual support of any claim is secondary or tertiary. No need. Simply represent yourself as the ‘truth, the light, or the way’ just as a famous politician proposed in July 2016 when he asked Americans not to place their trust in God, but him. “I am your voice. I alone can fix this.” And like those on the Exodus, we crafted our golden calf, placed it unto our personal alter and believed that he … alone … could solve our problems.

Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Martin Luther King shared many ideologies. But they both probably share that our current desire for the golden calf is born from hatred not from wisdom. Hatred. Jealousy. Bitterness. A person who suffered much fear, anger and violence comes from such darkness.

As such, this level of darkness lives not in the possible, but from scarcity, “there’s only so much pie to go around, and if you get some there will be less for me“.  This mindset could be viewed as a “scarcity mentality” and is part of the Lose-Win paradigm.

Stephen R. Covey explained in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“: The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.

“People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production.  They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people – even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates.  It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.

Although they may verbally express happiness for others’ success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out.  Their sense of worth comes from being compared, and someone else’s success, to some degree, means their failure.  Only so many people can be “A” students; only one person can be “number one”.  To “win” simply means to “beat.”

It’s difficult for people with a scarcity mentality to be members of a complimentary team.  They look on differences as signs of insubordination and disloyalty.

Luke 6:38 states “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

I am sure the question Dr. Martin Luther King would ask you to ponder is, which gift will you choose – anger or love? Unfortunately, it appears that 50 years after Dr. King’s death, we’re still embracing the golden calf.

This past February, I turned 58 — seven years away from Medicare, eight years or so away from Social Security. So there it is: I’m one of the last of the baby boomer generation (1946 – 1964), a Buddhist, and just another individual soul face to face with his own aging. All of this was reinforced a week about when an ex looked at my medical bills, glared into my eyes and stated the obvious:

“You cost too much.

Yes … “I” … cost too much.

Sorry,” I explained. “I was supposed to have been dead already.”

If death had occurred, there’d be no underlying medical expenses. No costs. No loss of employment wages. No hassels. However, the past six months have been a de facto race to retain eyesight. There was no major accident. I did not poke out an eye. I did not succum to household chemicals or hit by a baseball. There was no car accident, no fistfight, not even a stumble. I simply awoke on the morning of January 26th and couldn’t see. While I survived five major eye surgeries between the last week in January and first week of February, I accumulated $9,000 in health care deductibles and another $4,000 in lost income.

All that was just eye surgery.

All told, I was lucky. I had health insurance, albeit COBRA from a previous employer. Fast forward to 2025, all of us will likely to encounter a shortage of primary care physicians, increased emphasis on disease prevention, growth in electronic medical record-keeping, and growing disparities in both access and quality of primary care. Simply put, if you’re rich, you’ll have healthcare. If you’re poor, you die.

The number of those aged 60 and over will increase to 1.2 billion in 2025 and subsequently to two billion in 2050. By 2050, twenty-two (22%) percent of the world’s population will be over age 60 and 75% of the elderly will be living in countries with overburdened health care delivery systems. People, like me, will experience higher prevalence of chronic diseases, physical disabilities, mental illnesses and other co-morbidities.

While health care for the elderly requires collaboration of health, social welfare, rural/urban development and legal sectors, legislators continue to push aside such thoughts and while dropping billions into other investments, such as military armament, wasted border walls and other pet projects.

In fact, legislators say I cost too much, as Paul Ryan noted in December 2017;

We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show“… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.

By 2050, 80% of all older people will live in low- and middle-income countries. As a generation of aging baby boomers, and a corresponding uptick in chronic illnesses, meets rising medical costs in a perfect storm, the medical and social services communities have to face a critical question: How can we best provide care for our nation’s low-income elderly population?

Financing alone will not be enough. I invite all those who are interested to reach out to your communities, get involved, and include yourself in the ongoing health care conversation. Only together can we create solutions for the expansion and improvement of community-based health care to better serve all our citizens. We have to do something now, now in 2025 or 2050. If we don’t, one day, you’ll be informed you cost too much.

Each of the years spent in the military, I was asked, “Are you ready to die for your country?” Without delay, I would respond “Yes Sir (or Ma’am).”  After each proclamation, I would be provided the tools and training to stay as safe as possible. And maybe I lived in relative naivety, for I never really expected to die or that I would really have to sacrifice my life for another. Yet, there were a few missions that upon return, I changed my underwear and gulped a quick drink.

I look back to these times some thirty-years ago. A half decade of service seemed dramatically different than today. Today, “war zones” are closer and reside in uncommon area rarely seen. Hospitals, work spaces, local ballparks, post offices and schools. By rejecting any gun control efforts, state legislatures are in essence asking the enemies of the past, i.e., out educators, to not only train and educate, but to pay the ultimate sacrifice, as required.

America, we are hypocrites, for we’ve considered teachers as our enemies? You read that right. And I provide one example.

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker all but declared war on Wisconsin teachers. In the wake of legislative changes, thousands of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public-sector workers camped out at the Wisconsin Capitol, protesting Walker’s efforts to reduce their take-home pay — by increasing their contribution to their pension plans and health care benefits — and restrict their collective bargaining rights. Walker in essence said, you are the reason we’re (Wisconsin) is broke.

There’s an interesting, strange line at the end of the new film The Big Short, which chronicles the Wall Street doings that caused the economy to crash. In a voiceover near the end of the film, Ryan Gosling tells us that while bigwigs got off without consequences for what they did leading up to the Great Recession, people blame “immigrants, the poor and for the first time, teachers.”

Less than a week after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Florida State House officially said “fuck you” (2/20/2018) by rejecting a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. However, lawmakers opened the session with a prayer for the 17 killed. Seventeen people received only a prayer. That’s the legislative equivalent of ‘sucks to be you.’

And the final twist … the US Army is awarding medals for heroism to three students killed in last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Alaina Petty, Peter Wang and Martin Duque, all students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, were also cadets in the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and will receive the Medal of Heroism for their actions in last Wednesday’s shooting. Of course, all the honorees are dead.

Real heroism exists neither in Washington nor in the Florida State House. In today’s world, we ask former enemies to sacrifice their lives for students. In turn, we provide these heroes with nothing but a few days of training. We exhibit a profound lack of leadership to their needs, pay them like shit, and blame them for our lot in life. And yet … and yet … when bullets fly, they willing place themselves between students and assassin.

If you want to honor the ‘agape love‘ Christ and Buddha professed, go to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victim funerals and honor them, their families and their lives.

Unfortunately, Americans prefer guns over teachers. Thus, our real enemy is ignorance and indifference.

After reading Forbes writer John Wasik article of how the GOP Tax Plan screws the middle class, I doth believe the Ghost of Christmas Hate has arrived.

First, the GOP argument is that an average family earning $60,000 annually nets a couple grand – roughly $2,100 – to which they get to choose how to dispense versus the U.S. Government selection. If you’re Republican, rejoice. Clap. Clap. Applause. Applause. Say, “Amen Brothers!” and “Praise Jesus.” If you’re Democratic, ‘Meh!

So how does the Ghost of Christmas Hate fit? Wasik noted that tax break comes with trade-offs. Two grand never comes free. Since the tax plan adds $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the imbalance is offset by cuts in “entitlement” programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid or tax increases. GOP Senators rarely mentions offsets.

  • Lower Social Security payments by changing payment calculations. Much of that money comes out of the pockets of middle- and working-class taxpayers.
  • As Trump and GOP allies crow about how middle class families will receive a tax cut, other current tax breaks — like personal exemptions and property tax write-offs — get cut.
  • By 2027, anyone making less than $75,000 will have their taxes raised.
  • GOP Tax Bill does not cut corporate loopholes, bring back trillions in offshore cash nor cut defense spending. GOP will reduce the federal deficit by slashing big programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. As such, there will be no help for families paying for long-term care, payroll taxes or college. Monthly Social Security Checks will decrease.
  • People ages 50 to 64 would face average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019. As a result, 4 million more Americans will become uninsured in 2019 and 13 million by 2025, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
  • Even those who argue that the bill’s corporate and income tax cuts will spur economic growth can’t guarantee that any particular American will receive a raise.

Still, there’s positives to the GOP Tax Plan. The Ghost of Christmas Hate left wonderful rich boys and girls some benefits.

First, a quirk. The GOP Tax Plan exempts “private aircraft owners” from taxes on the “maintenance and support of the aircraft owner’s aircraft or flights on the aircraft owner’s aircraft.” I don’t know about you, but I’m glad Trump will not have to pay maintenance and support.

Second, Trump’s claim of “millions” of family farms and businesses suffering from the ‘estate tax’ (i.e., ‘Death Tax’) is not reality. There are no ‘millions.’ There’s no hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands. If the Ghost of Christmas Hate had repealed the ‘estate tax’ last year, approximately 80 of 5,500 of eligible estates would have benefited.

Why? Well, because only morons pay the estate tax.

Most fortunes amassed, like Trump’s, come from investment holdings, 55 percent of which were capital gains. They are rarely subject to tax. For these families, the first $5.49 million isn’t taxed, and careful tax planning can drastically reduce what’s owed on the rest. As Gary Cohn, the White House economic adviser, told a group of Senate Democrats this year, “Only morons pay the estate tax.”

Forbes notes wealthy people begin passing on their wealth to their heirs in the form of “charitable lead trusts” and other “exotic loopholes” long before the Angel of Death arrives. If Trump’s worth the $3.1 billion, as Forbes magazine says Trump is, by eliminating the estate tax excluding almost everyone, the Ghost of Christmas Hate saves Trump Jr., Eris and Ivanka $1.2 billion.

Third, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling deficits made worse by the package as a rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the New Deal and Great Society, leaving government leaner and the safety net skimpier for millions of Americans. Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their big dreams publicly, vowing that next year they will move on to changes in Medicare and Social Security. President Trump told a Missouri rally last week, “We’re going to go into welfare reform.”

Meanwhile, the $2,000 tax break you and I received is funneled back to the IRS, medical care, college costs, taxes, etc., etc., etc.

Happy Holidays from the Ghost of Christmas Hate!

Matt Lauer’s dismissal flashed across the television screen while attending to my father’s aid.  After a Thanksgiving stroke, my father’s condition left little time to review and assess anything more than a few sips of coffee is a silent cafeteria or quick naps listening the ‘beeps,’ ‘burps,’ and ‘swoosh’ of medical devices. Still, even I felt momentarily paralyzed.

Did this paralysis come forth because I knew Matt Lauer? Nope. Never met him or any other morning show host. In fact, I’ve only seen snippets of the ‘Today’ show in the past ten years. Neither have I been a regular purveyor of CBS, ABC, or FOX. If any show does standout, it would be ‘Morning Joe.’ My paralysis came forth not because I was surprised by Lauer’s termination, but rather from having incessantly witnessed harassment throughout my first 15 year career path. ‘Witness’ may be a bad term. Maybe the right word should be ‘trained.’

My early years included stints in the military, a non-for-profit, and an Asian automotive manufacturer. A lot of scenes weren’t pretty and were crude, ugly and demeaning. I simply cannot recall the amount of times I heard ‘pussy,’ ‘nipples,’ ‘dick,’ ‘suck,’ ‘anal,’ ‘breasts’ and whatever. Morning breaks included tallies of women conquered as if one were free-climbing a mountain’s summit. Lunch was about measurements, was she filled, did she scream, ‘glazing the donuts,’ and what’s left on the ‘to-do’ list before dumping the victim like trash strewn off an interstate.

The culture of my era did not tolerate non-compliance, neither male nor female. Intolerance resulted in an immediate career death spiral.  Twenty-years ago, as an employee of the aforementioned Asian automotive manufacturer, I lost my career protecting a female colleague against harassment. Job reviewer particularly noted “… not an effective fit for current company culture.” Seven years later, working as a consultant during an assignment in London, United Kingdom, just across the river from the Parliament building, I again defended a female co-worker being publicly and sexually harassed. The result? Same as before, I was released as part of department restructuring. Strange how I was the only employee ‘restructured.’

While I considered my father to be an upstanding man, he, like all father’s, was not perfect. He did, at one time, have an affair. As such, after reading the accounts of current victims, I wonder if the harassment witnessed in my era engulfed my father’s. There appears to be little difference. And therein lies the problem. Our harassment problem is broader than television or political icons. Harassment is a decades old, even hundreds and hundreds of years.

Over the years, I was never in a position to effectively require ‘sex on demand.’ I was never allowed that type of management position. Looking rearward, the lack of morality or corporate culture witnessed is not an excuse, then nor now. Harassment and sexual control remains just as much part of this world as it was my father’s. What’s changed is the dialogue. And the dialogue is greatly needed.

Many of us who worked and labored came to our workplaces to establish a career. Some found additional power in sex. It’s the leaders of my era who left a trail of pain in our wake. We were practitioners who disgracefully abused roles as leaders and mentors, betraying the trust of coworkers. However, most of us kept a silence on disturbing events swirling about. As told, protect the company. We coddled ourselves into believing the opportunity to learn valued more than our lack of moral strength. And if we said anything, we’d destroy the very careers we were cultivating. Like the good soldiers of A Few Good Men, we justified our actions via words like honor, code, loyalty.

I’ll end with a quote from the movie listed above.

Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!

Dawson: Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves.

As Buddhists, Christians or Atheists, we’re supposed to fight for everyone equally. The problem is, we don’t. We didn’t in my day, neither do we today.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Bill Clinton “more than paid the price” for his affair with Monica Lewinsky while he was in office, basing it in part upon the fact he was impeached. Vice President Joe Biden echoed similar themes.

The same can’t be said for Lewinsky.

As the Huffington Post noted in 2012, Lewinsky floundered. She’s designed handbags and received an advanced degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics, but nothing seems to have stuck.  No one will hire her. In the past few years, Lewinsky has reemerged into the public spotlight as an anti-bullying activist. As such, if she lived near me, I would be proud to call her my neighbor.

For the accuser, life outcomes tend to be different. The harassment sequence is familiar to anyone who has followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Power and imbalance. Professional invitations really disguised for assault. One person trading upon connections, plum jobs, pressuring the younger person for sex, followed by the “public outing,” and indignation of being falsely accused.

As Vox wrote earlier this year, Weinstein’s community rejected him. Yet Trump and Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore continue to receive support. Why? Well, they’re needed. The Republican party needs both Trump and Moore. They certainly don’t need Al Franken.

People may think sexual assault is unacceptable, but when push comes to shove, there are circumstances under which they’ll tolerate it because there are other things that matter more to them.

Should you be the accuser, the window of light is very small, then you’re discarded.  While I understand that as humans lying may seem to be a common practice, the public automatically assumes “victims” would lie and “the accused” be believed because they have a public presence.

Repeated presentations from law enforcement, FBI, therapists, and state providers provide hard evidence that “false allegations are very minimal.” The overwhelming majority of victims drop their charges because the implications and pressure to convict the accused are too costly. They shared how difficult it is just to try and convict those guilty of sexual assault, pedophilia, and neglect. It was difficult to not only hear but to swallow.

Throughout the years, I’ve taken an extensive personal inventory of the man I had become. For quite some time, it was not a pretty picture. Many years later, I now take responsibility for speaking out, for listening to those who claim to be victims, and holding men accountable for their language and actions.

As a Buddhist, I understand people don’t always tell the truth, but we should not immediately assume that those who are dishonest. As leaders, in both community and household, we required to act, to fight for victims.

Biblically speaking, I suggest the following:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For the rights of all who are oppressed speak up, judge fairly, defend the rights of the vulnerable and needy.” (Prov. 31:8-9)

The Monica Lewinsky’s of the world need us.

I had an affair 30 years ago. The woman was my administrative assistant. Eight years ago, I almost had another affair. As to the second affair, the physical part never occurred. However, the second affair was brutally and publicly painful.

In both cases the women joined a silent majority. In both cases, I joined a silent majority. Both woman joined a silent majority of those who suffered silently. I joined a silent majority of men who used position and power that ultimately degraded another in some way. In light of the sexual scandals crossing the news outlets, I wonder how much I “retriggered” them during the past decades. How many days passed without suffering some form of humiliation?

I suffer from my own internal judgement, from the guilt and shame I inflicted. It never leaves. In decades of travel, I have found apologies are of little value. Even after apologizing and requesting forgiveness, I’ve sat on the shores of Hawaii, walked the forests of New Zealand, overlooked the Andes and sailed the Atlantic. Both women remain ever-present.

After hearing victims from Fox News, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Mark Halperin, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C. K., Steve Jurvetson, Eddie Berganza, Andrew Kreisberg, Benjamin Genocchi, Ed Westwick, Jeff hoover, Andy Dick, Ohio State Rep. Wes Goodman, Al Franken and others I wonder just how public testimony will abide the anvil that binds their soul. Will Thanksgiving really be more peaceful? Will Christmas? Will the public let you forget? Will your mind really let you forget?  Will the victims be more open, more loving, and more welcome in a newly refined “24/7” news cycle? Could each victim abridge public persona against the private?

What I failed to understand was that these women placed themselves in the hands of others. The women of my affairs trusted me. I failed them. And the misogyny of my heart will forever impact them. Yet no amount of reconciliation will give back the years sawed from their soul. More so, why should I be forgiven?

If there’s any tidbit of truth from the darkness is that the public treats these cases subjectively. Donald Trump was quick to denounce Franken via Twitter, labeling Franken as “Frankenstien” [sic]. However, Trump’s been silent on Senatorial Candidate Roy Moore. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago. Yet twenty years ago, we the public willingly chose to humiliate Lewinsky, not Clinton. Yes. “We,” the public, did that.

In Trump’s case, women alleged Trump had either touched, grabbed or kissed them without permission. Over the course of his campaign, more than a dozen women came forward. Without exception, Trump continues to claim there is “no merit” to any harassment claim against him, adding that the allegations were based on events that either never occurred or nothing more than a politically-motivated.

Accordingly, I make six predictions. First, I predict Al Franken’s career is over. Second, I predict Roy Moore will win. Third, I predict Donald Trump’s accusers will suffer for the rest of their lives, for “we,” the public, choose to allow them to suffer in vain. Fourth, Monica Lewinsky should be embraced, but I predict “we,” the public will not. Fifth, I predict to continue to wear the forged anvil and chains. That’s good. I forged them, I deserve them. Lastly, I predict Franken’s picture of groping Leeann Tweeden will give the millions of women living the silent majority a roar.

And for others? Donald Trump’s “Al Frankenstien” [sic] tweet received over 60,000 “likes.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stands by President Donald Trump’s previous comments when asked whether the more than a dozen women who have accused him of sexual assault were liars. Yes. All of them were.

So that’s leadership in action. Add Sander’s to another majority …

“The Silent.”

The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?

~~ Dale Carnegie ~~

I leafed through a copy of Chris Matthews new book “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit” and glanced through the book’s Prelude, I read Matthew’s words, “That Bobby’s background was different from his own didn’t matter; only his principles did.

I was eight years old when Bobby Kennedy was killed. Not completely unlike today, between March 16, 1968 and June 5, 1968, the country survived a series of events. Bobby Kennedy challenged his brother’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, for the Democratic presidential nomination. To which, LBJ withdrew. April brought the brutal assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., followed by urban rioting. And June 1968, the national would have to grieve again, as Bobby Kennedy would be assassinated.

Pushing democracy aside, our nation has not had to endure political assassinations. However, years of The Black Lives Matter movement, a Presidential race touting body parts, racial discord of white supremacy, sexual discrimination and the utter inability to work as members for a common good suggests our society has fallen behind the ideology of all men being equal.

Another small snippet led me to compare Trump to Bobby Kennedy. In reality, Matthews noted Joseph P. Kennedy (Bobby’s father) thought Bobby was devoid of any valuable qualities. Anguishing for a moment, I sat in a bookstore chair, closed my eyes and thought of Trump as he told FOX News “I’m the only one that matters.”

What Trump doesn’t understand is that Kennedy knew vulnerability alongside privilege and power. I fear this unwelcome gift the Trump children have applied well.  For instance, Ivanka Trump seems unwilling to acknowledge that there could, hypothetically, be a difference between what’s good for women and what’s good for her brand. In The Trump Card, Ivanka broadcasted her similarity to the President. “That’s what you get from this particular Daddy’s girl,” she wrote.

“As the first daughter goes around touting herself as a champion of women,” Sarah Newell, a representative for International Labor Rights Forum told Newsweek, “women are literally facing abusive conditions as they stitch her [brand name] into her products, and they aren’t being provided a structure where they can advocate for themselves.” NYT Opinion writer Lindy West phrased it well.

You’d think that a passionate anti-wage-gap crusader like Ms. Trump would relish a broad, ever-expanding data set illuminating her pet issue so that she could go after it with laser focus, but no. The first daughter strode into Washington with two big promises: She was passionate about helping “working women” and she was going to close the gender wage gap. However, Ms. Trump endorsed the President’s decision to abandon an Obama-era initiative. 

But remember, Trump is about brand – Trump brand. Not your brand. Not my brand. It’s as if Trump has been repeating, “I’m the only one that matters.”

The Trump brand will never intermingle with our brand. I’ve never heard President Trump ever express outrage at hunger in in the inner cities, mistreatment of blacks, or  unfair work conditions faced by migrants, regardless of how legal or illegal they be. Yet he will discuss nuking North Korea while simultaneously and unapologetically stating he received a high draft number and never served. Damn those bone spurs. And lastly, I’ve never heard Trump having the same empathy for white workingmen and women for blacks, Latinos and foreigners.

Trump’s true soul showed and we ignored it. As such, former Barack Obama voters swung the election by supporting Donald Trump. “It’s now the accepted wisdom,” Matthews wrote, “that the interests of the discarded factory worker and the ignored inner-city youth cannot be met together, so why try?

As a Buddhist, I find peace in Robert Kennedy’s sympathetic words from the night Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

“For those of you who are black and tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling.  I had a member of my family killed — but he was killed by a white man.  But we have to make an effort in the United States.  We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.”

Contrary to Trump, we are “that” which counts. And returning full-circle, I would much rather borrow principles from Socrates, swipe them from Chesterfield or steal them from Jesus versus living by Trump’s. Accordingly, every day, each of us must choose which principles to honor. Trump’s values are not my true north. Neither should they be yours.

America must make an effort … an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.

President Trump joked about a bugle call that is customarily part of the armed forces’ time-honored tradition of showing respect. The bugle call occurred during Trump’s interview with Fox News.

“What a nice sound that is. Are they playing that for you or for me?” Trump exclaimed. “They’re playing that in honor of his (Hannity’s) ratings.”

Weeks ago, Trump furthered the NFL–U.S. Flag debate when stating, “That’s (kneeling) a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said, encouraging NFL owners to smack-down unruly players.

Trump almost make it sound as if the U.S. Flag is a person.  Accordingly, everyone must be reminded that our nation’s flag is not a person. As such, the flag owns no heritage. Rather, our nation’s flag is meant to be a symbolic representation of American values. And like everything in our live, our nation’s values are shrouded in strengths and weaknesses.

The Supreme Court has found laws banning desecration of the American flag to be unconstitutional. The court ruled that it falls under the First Amendment protection of free speech in the Constitution. Despite this, the majority of states continue to have desecration laws on the books. Yet none will prosecute anyone for it.

Trump has no intention of prosecuting people who kneel during the National Anthem. Trump already knows flag desecration is not against the law. By highlighting NFL players kneeling, Trump reminds people of those who died in national service and aligns their emotions to something deeply offensive. This sentiment represents his constituents popular view. In highlighting an act of kneeling, Trump highlights a “moral crime” his constituents find angry. He’ll then walk away and let the common anger of self-righteousness flame emotions and parlay this vision into a windfall of ideological hate.

So then why continue to parlay the “flag disrespect” ideology? Perhaps because Trump’s point is to suppress the communication of ideas. For Trump, falsity is easier to accept and the acceptance of his opinion often has little to do with truth itself. In essence, for Trump, “truth” is not absolute. Accordingly, almost everything contradicting his view may well be considered a “clear and present danger.” Likewise, the majority of Trump supporters adopt some version of the “clear and present danger” mentality. Need an example? Trump’s 2016 “… war on Christmas” scenario. Need another? NFL Players kneeling disrespects the flag.

Throughout my years of travel, I’ve seen many things done to America’s flag. Most of them involve obscenities, stomping and burning. These acts occur both here in the United States and world over. None of them resulted in America weeping? I never saw the Statue of Liberty crying when I returned home. Nor have I seen people wailing in the streets of middle America. Nope. Not once.

However, if we take Trump’s at his word, “…that the U.S. Flag (and ideals) must not be disrespected,” then I have a few questions.

  • One in five children in New York City are food insecure. How does hunger in America impact the desecration of America and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?
  • In the past six-months, you’ve celebrated proposed radical shifts healthcare insurance that would expose tens of millions to lack of quality healthcare and deepen healthcare inequality. Can you please explain how this is not a form of desecration to American values and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?
  • While terminating healthcare subsidies, Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. The argument is that because coal and nuclear power can’t compete with cheaper (and cleaner) sources of power, they need to be subsidized. Can you please explain how removing healthcare subsidies while simultaneously providing subsidies to an ever-changing energy market is not a form of desecration to American values and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?
  • Desperate Puerto Ricans are said to be drinking water from potentially toxic superfund sites. Does desecration of American ideals occur only within the continental U.S and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?

I doubt we’ll get any answers.

Trump predictably got a standing ovation from the hundreds of people at the annual Values Voter Summit. Ovations included remarks for the flag, God and Israel. The “war on Christmas” theme has proven politically potent for years on the right, stocked by conservative media including Trump’s favorite, Fox News.

The President insists he’s simply standing up for the flag. But the flag is not a person. The flag, in and of itself, feels no pain. All Trump is doing is stoking culture wars.

At the end of the day, Trump’s decision to embroil the NFL in politics will reshape the NFL experience for millions. And for those needing a job, searching for someone to care for a sick child or drinking water from a toxic superfund landfill, you’re pretty much screwed.

But hey, at least the our U.S. Flag is not being disrespected. Right? Right!

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