Sunday, July 14, 2019

Flyovers

Donald Trump rolled out the military hardware for his July 4 celebration. I hated it.

I’m in Paris now. It’s Bastille Day. I walked with Meg to the Pont des Arts to watch French fighter jets stream les tricolores over the Louvre as part of their military parade. I loved it.

Why is that?

Am I just so anti-Trump that anything he does, even in the name of celebrating our founding, rankles me? Probably. I wish he would test me by doing something good—you know, humane—but I’m not holding my breath.

Maybe it just that the French, unlike the U.S. under Trump, seem relatively harmless. Their parades are like the ones in small towns with fire engines and kids pulling red wagons with puppies (credit to one of my sons for that charming image).

The French have learned to live in peace as part of the world community. They are still in the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal. They are loyal to NATO and the European Union. They have their problems domestically, but no one feels threatened by the French.

Not so my own country under its current leadership. We have become international bullies. We’re bullies on matters of defense (pay your NATO dues or maybe you can’t count on our help when you get attacked), bullies on trade, bullies on climate, bullies on immigration. Bullies against women. Bullies against our own citizens who aren’t white. Even the white ones who, along with everyone else, want decent health care.

It’s discouraging, and embarrassing. When people here ask me where I’m from, I say California, not America. Like the charming woman Meg and I met at a tiny neighborhood wine tasting on Boulevard St. Germain who is British but has lived in Paris for twenty years and considers it home. She hopes Macron can succeed with his economic reforms—she had several amusing stories about frustratingly desultory navigations through French bureaucracy—but she loves France and is worried that after Brexit she might not be able to stay. She visibly relaxed we we mentioned were weren’t Trump fans.

There are many reasons to love Paris. The food, the wine, the Seine, the shopkeepers, the markets. America grew up on the road, so we have McDonalds. The French staked out their way of living hundreds of years ago. Localvore has always been in here. It’s just a different sensibility.

It’s not as dynamic as Silicon Valley, where we live. It isn’t cutting edge. America does that better than anyone. Still. 

We are the best at so many things, we don’t need to keep reminding the world of that. We don’t need to threaten. We don’t need to bully. We don’t need to be the boor raised in privilege with no conception of the moral responsibilities that go with that birthright.

To anyone who might now be thinking of telling me “America, Love it or Leave it,” I say this: I don’t want to be an expatriate. I just want my country back.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Birds in a Watery Grave

They’re all along the Seine, gleaming under the surface, these birds. Not finches, not girls of sixties English slang, but electric scooters. There are many more to splash down, I think, cast into the river by revelers or scooter vigilantes.

Perhaps they will become fresh-water reefs, hatcheries for fish or snags for fishermen. Perhaps they will become art, underwater Watts Towers. 

The Seine has survived worse. Floods, droughts, Marly’s diversion of her water to the fountains of Versailles, which at one time received a greater share of her beneficence than all of Paris. Let them eat cake, and wash it down with wine.

The lovely old river that gives the City of Light much of her allure and romance doesn’t deserve this latest assault. 

And neither do we, the happy, hapless daydreamers who stroll along her banks. It’s hard to let your mind drift to your lover or your novel when you’re in danger of being bashed to the ground by a speeding silent predator with the mass of a careless human.

Electric scooters from Bird, Lime and others have migrated to Paris. They’re more like locusts than cheerful swallows. When we were here a year ago, there were none. Now there are thousands. 

The city is busily considering regulations to control them; to force them off sidewalks and onto bicycle lanes, for instance. Where that means going in the streets with cars, I fear for the safety of the parents and children I see riding together, two to a scooter. They go as fast as bicycles. No one wears helmets.

I’m sure scooters could be good for the environment as carbon-free transportation. But from what I’ve seen, they are used less as an alternative to cars than for tourist joyrides. Like the family I saw today buzzing around the pyramids at the Louvre, weaving in and out of the crowds of people who were holding hands with their lovers and children, taking photos of the fountains and generally basking in the majesty and tranquility of the architecture of French emperors and I.M. Pei—and who certainly weren’t expecting to be buzzed by a scooter.

There is a place for wheeled sport, like bicycle lanes and skateboard parks. City sidewalks jammed with walking wanderers who just want to relax and enjoy the beauty of this amazing place, are not among them.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Keep Him High, Sell Him Again

Here’s how it happens. 

A teenager is a little wild and rebellious. Maybe her parents are too strict. Maybe they just don’t care that much. Or maybe they care a lot but don’t seem to be able to get their child back on track. The kid tries a little alcohol, a little weed, then harder stuff. The people he meets in the land of lost boys introduce him to helpful dealers who give him free samples of the good stuff. Pretty soon he’s a full-blown addict.

There follow the lies, the fights with family, the stealing, more lies, more fights, more stealing, and pretty soon the kid is on the street, either by choice or by eviction from a home that doesn’t understand, can’t understand, what happened to their little boy. 

He has to want to change, they say. He has to hit bottom.

But bottom is rock hard, and it hurts.

Even if the kid wants out, even if he goes into rehab, the permanent exits are guarded by his addict homies, his dealers and, as it turns out, even the recovery system. He becomes a body for the body brokers who sell him to the highest bidder in the detox-sober-living system. The fees for his recovery are collected from health insurance plans he has or ones the body brokers enroll him in. He lives in a sober living house that often isn’t sober at all. 

Keep him high, keep him addicted, sell him again, and again, until there’s nothing left to sell.

This is what addicts and their parents are fighting. Recovery is tough enough, but nearly impossible if the game is rigged. Like those milk bottles at the state fair. No one can ever knock them down. Still they keep trying. 

And still the barker puts the money in his pocket.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My History Lesson

When I was a boy, history was ancient. Greeks and Romans. Even further back, Egyptians and mummies. 

As I got older, I learned that it wasn’t just the ancients who fought epic battles. Skirmishes great and small happened all the time, more or less continuously. Except maybe in the Dark Ages. I was never very clear about what happened in the Dark Ages, apart from plague and misery. In the Renaissance, though, the histories of battles resumed. The Catholic Church got in on the wars among the Italian city states. All across Europe, Kings warred. 

This territorial and ideological push and shove endured with little remission until, and culminating in, the great World Wars of the twentieth century. I was born at the end of the last of those, and so, apart from provincial skirmishes like Korea and Vietnam, it seemed to me as a young man that the world had calmed down. There was the cold war with Russia, mutually-assured-destruction and all that, so I guess my sanguinity was technically unwarranted, but I was young and optimistic. Of course we would, as a civilization, make progress now. Why else was I alive and part of it if not for that?

My wife, Meg, is a novelist, and lately she has written historical fiction set in and around WW II. We go to Europe and see the places that suffered in that great war and the one before it, and the people, and I think about the rise of Fascism, the almost hypnotic rage it provoked in otherwise ordinary folk, and I wonder at how it happened. What were people thinking? Hitler? Really?

Since WW II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, we have taken up global meddling again, like a medieval king or pope. We’re currently up to our necks in the quicksands of the Middle East. A close look at the sects that are at each other’s throats there, and have been since long before we got involved, has opened my eyes to a sad fact: I’m not living in a special time. The years of my time on this earth are no more transformational than the millennia that came before. Engineering has raised skyscrapers and science has vaccinated us against the diseases of early times, so we live longer, but we don’t live much differently.

We still fight about everything. We still raise the banners of religion and nationalism to rally ourselves to vanquish the other. Our weapons are more fearsome, and one day we may wipe ourselves out, but in the meantime, nothing else about human interaction is fundamentally different than it has ever been.

And now, once again, not in some ancient time, not in the last century, but right now, in this decade, we are falling for demagogues and autocrats again. Trump. Putin. Bolsonaro in Brazil. Orban in Hungry. What the hell? Didn’t we learn anything from Hitler? Didn’t we learn anything from ourselves?

William Faulkner famously said: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” I always thought that sounded terribly clever, but, honestly, I never understood what he was trying to tell us. 

I do now.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Brownies for René


René is our mailman. I don’t like the mail, but I like René, even though he mostly brings bills and junk. I’ve almost switched all the bills to electronic. Less luck with the junk.

When we travel, I have to have the mail held, or, if we’re going away for more than thirty days, forwarded to incurious friends. Sometimes substitute carriers leave it in the mailbox anyway, where it sits until we return, announcing our absence. I tried to stop all mail once, but the post office wouldn’t let me.

René is sympathetic. He says the post office is a mess. He seems cheerfully abashed to be working at a place where his personal standards aren’t matched by those of his employer.

I’ve waved and nodded to many mail carriers over the years, from many homes in many states, but René is the first one I’ve known by name. He’s also the first one I know for sure loves brownies.

When our sons went off to college, Meg began sending them brownies now and then. “Brownie Love,” she called it. A small, flat-rate mailing box is just the right size. Sometimes they were still warm when she put them in the mailbox.

It wasn’t too long before I’d see René (whose name I didn’t know then) on his rounds and he’d say those brownies smelled so good he couldn’t guarantee they’d make it to the boys. After that, with the boxes she mailed Meg often left a little plastic bag with a brownie or two, tied with a ribbon. “Protection brownies,” you might call them.

As the years went on, René met our dog and our sons when they were home from school, and when I walked in the neighborhood I would see him on his route and make a joke about him being disloyal, taking care of other customers.

Then, last Fall, I didn’t see him for a few months. I thought maybe he’d retired. I mentioned missing him to our new mailman, and he said René was on a medical leave. When René came back, he said he’d been away “kicking cancer’s butt.”

Since then he has gotten thinner and a little slower, and he misses a week now and then, but he keeps coming; and Meg keeps making brownies. Our boys have been out of college for a while now, but as long as René comes to our porch with the mail, a living symbol of the strength and optimism in tough times that is the best of us, they’ll keep getting brownies in the mail.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Now is the Time

Today is the day we celebrate the life and vision of Martin Luther King. When my youngest sons were growing up, we played his speeches on this day every year. Listening to them through a child’s ears, I literally shivered with pleasure and pride. Barack Obama was president. 

Dr. King urged us to march. “Now is not the time for the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” he said.

I don’t think Dr. King would be as shocked as I am that a racist is president, and that racial hatred is openly abroad in the land. He grew up in the Jim Crow south. He faced down George Wallace. He watched Klansmen ride out of Stone Mountain in Atlanta in white robes and hoods on their way to light the burning crosses of racial terror. He was willing to sit in jail in Birmingham.

Most of us are not selfish. We are willing to share what we have with others in need. The greatest thing we Americans have to share is our freedom. Our instinct, or at least our moral aspiration, is to lift our lamp beside the golden door.

But Trump has made us afraid, or some of us anyway. He has appealed to the basest side of us, the side of which we should be ashamed, and of which, in private, we are ashamed. But in a mob…well, we all know what mobs are capable of, whether Southern lynch mobs or Nazi brownshirts.

Now is the time to stand up to the Trump mob.

If we do not, will we suffer? Will we, as they say, get what we deserve? 

No, most of us who read and write these kinds of thoughts won’t. But millions of our fellow citizens, our fellow residents, our fellow human beings from all over the world, will. And when they are brought low and we are walled off in our elite white utopia, what will we be?

What is any man or woman who hears the suffering of others and turns away?

Friday, November 16, 2018

Waiting for Good

I have taken myself to Walden Pond. The only tweets I hear will be from sparrows and titmouses.

I have deleted Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For different reasons. Facebook broke my heart with its careless and cynical handling of personal data and fake news. Twitter never pretended to be anything but a jungle, but for now I’ve had enough of trying to hack my way through its tangle of hate and lies (most notably from our president).

I love social media. I was early on Facebook and Instagram. But I don’t love what they’ve become. I would like to see a paid subscription model. That would get rid of the advertising pollution and exploitation. It wouldn’t sort fake news from fact, though. Until algorithms get much better, the only way to do that would be to apply to social media the defamation rules newspapers live by: if you publish a defamatory lie, you’re liable for damages.

That would be a Good platform. I could meet my friends there and we could chat the way we do in person, without worrying that someone is trying to exploit us or is lying to us (well, no more than we all lie to one another about little personal things).

It could be a long wait for Good.

In the meantime, I’ll keep up with my friends directly and say what I have to say more broadly in essays in print or on the radio (thanks for the opportunity, KQED).

And I’ll keep writing this blog. Follow it if you're interested.

Otherwise, look for the smoke from the chimney of my cabin in the woods. There will be a sign on the door saying “Novel in Progress,” but you’ll be welcome anytime.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Walls of Worry

The stock market climbs a wall of worry, the old expression goes. That’s certainly happening now. There may still be gas in the tank of the old bull (to really mix my metaphors). It has taken us so far so fast that not many are asking to be let off at the next stop. Meanwhile, fear and greed are duking it out in the back seat like a couple of bored teenagers on an overlong family road trip.

Walls are emotionally powerful symbols. Trump has his border wall. He wants us to be afraid of all those brown people who want to rape our wives and daughters and steal our livelihoods. 

I’m scaling my own wall of worry; free-climbing, no ropes, no safety net. My wall is the midterm elections. I want to believe in the blue wave. I think we need some balance in Congress. But I’m terrified that both fear and greed are going to gang up on what used to be called American values.

For the midterms, we have the fear of the other lined up on the side of old fashioned avarice. Together, they may just beat the crap out of the weakling intellectual called liberal democracy. 

Around the world we are in a new era of the strongman. From Hungary and Poland and Turkey to Brazil and China and Russia. And now, with Trump, America. Strongmen aren’t big fans of democracy, or free press, or independent judiciaries. They’re autocrats. People install them, or tolerate them, when the aimless sloppiness of democracy isn’t getting enough done to suit them. That’s what got Trump elected.

Since his election, he has shown his true colors: he’s a racist, misogynist oligarch; a man who wants to destroy the press and pack the courts with men who will let him do whatever he wants. He has tossed aside alliances with other nations that have protected and promoted a peaceful world order for seventy years. He’s a dangerous man.

But the economy is rocking, and he’s taking credit for that. Unemployment is at a fifty-year low. Wages are rising. Businesses are prospering. This moment of undeniable economic success won’t last forever, or perhaps even much longer. We’re already late in the expansion cycle. And the latest tax cuts are pumping up the deficit. When the party stops, we’re likely to have a bad hangover.

But for now, we’re looking good economically. And immigrant bashing and isolationism, let’s face it, are more popular among a larger segment of society than we’re comfortable admitting.

Blue wave? I hope so. But the economic facts the voters are seeing are pretty supportive of Trump; and the additional facts he is making up about threats from illegal immigrants and unfair trading partners, threats that require his strong hand, are easy enough to believe.

I’m climbing my midterm wall, but I’m worried. Every time I glance down, I see we could have a very long way to fall.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Dominoes of Hearts and Minds

Technology will set us free. It will read our mammograms better that our doctors can. It will predict potential litigation outcomes with such accuracy that the adversaries will settle their differences without wasting a lot of money and time in court. It will lift us up from ignorance and poverty.

In the process, it may also enslave us.

Power is the ability to change behavior; and technology gives that power to those who control it. Those are the central themes of Jamie Suskind’s new book, Future Politics. I heard him speak yesterday at Stanford Law School. I came away tingling with anticipation, but not altogether in a good way.

Artificial intelligence is becoming more capable, and sensors and processors are increasingly woven into the fabric of society. Suskind believes this paves the way for manipulation of behavior through scrutiny and perception control. 

Scrutiny is like surveillance, but more focused on learning about us to influence us than merely watching us to see that we are behaving. The more you know about someone, their likes and dislikes, the more you can influence their choices. The most obvious example is cellphone ads: because they are based on your online activity, they are better and better targeted at you.

Perception control is another way to say fake news. Not much more need be said about that. We’re awash in it now and can’t figure out how to turn off the firehose.

All that is disturbing enough, but not exactly news. 

What I hadn’t thought as much about is how thought control through technology might be used to colonize. In the old days, to take over other nations countries had to send in troops. Now they need only send in high-speed wifi and chatbots. If you’re China, for instance, a country that offers up only the news it wants you to see, it’s pretty easy to convert a country or a continent to your belief system. 

We fought the Vietnam war because we feared that if Vietnam fell to the Chinese communists, other countries in the region would follow, like so many dominoes toppling one after the other.

Now China has announced its One Belt, One Road plan to invest broadly in the underdeveloped world. Brazil. Africa. They are focused on developing natural resources and energy. And they are planning to import technology. They will control the message to those people, as authoritarians do, and those dominoes of hearts and minds will fall without a shot being fired, without a twinge of alarm from the country that sacrificed over half a million soldiers and billions of dollars to try to prevent what we thought was a similar threat a half century ago.

The domino theory of the 1960s was probably wrong-headed. Vietnam was a civil war, not a communist conquest.

This time, though, there may be more to fear.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

CalIfornia Future News

Californians stopped paying federal taxes today. Not everyone, but most. The ones who still want to be part of the United States are mostly moving out.

“We just don’t feel like this is our country anymore,” said Freida Warner in Sausalito. “We’re going to start over here. Like we did in 1776. It was the same then, people from thousands of miles away telling us what to do, people who didn’t share our values. It was Britain then. It’s Washington D.C. now, but the attitudes are the same. We’re the boss, you have to do what we say. Well, you know what: No you’re not.”

The movement started a little over a year ago after a series of government decisions to cut social services, restrict voting rights, and prohibit abortions were backed up by the Supreme Court. It has gained steam as more people signed on. Today is tax day, the first day of the rebellion. The federal government has made it clear it will prosecute those who refuse to pay their taxes, but people like John Brown of Los Angeles say there are too many of them for that to be practical.

“They’re just going to have to let us go,” Mr. Brown said.

No one calls it secession, but that’s what it amounts to. Economic secession. The state government has not taken an official position on the movement.

“We’re going to do our best to keep the lights on and the water running,” said Governor Rodriguez. “We’re used to enduring hardship to gain freedom. This is nothing compared to working the fields of the Central Valley in the hot sun for little money and no respect.”

Will there be another Civil War? It seems unlikely that the federal government would choose to send in the army and become an occupying force, but no one knows.

“Whatever comes, we’re ready for it,” said Julie Newman of San Francisco. “They can have their bigoted sexist country if they want to, but we’re not going to be part of it anymore.”

Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Angry Man

I was in high school when the Civil Rights movement swept through my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1960s. 

In my memory, I was largely oblivious.

vote.gov
This is the story I tell myself when I’m feeling ashamed about that: I was a privileged country-club brat who was waited on by maids and servers and golf caddies and I didn’t even notice their plight.

This is the story I tell myself when I’m feeling a little more charitable: I didn’t really fit in at the country club. I mostly played golf with my dad, or alone. The black headwaiter, Cooper, liked me enough to sneak me sweet rolls the size of catcher’s mitts. A caddy who was close to my age, Sammy, liked me enough to relieve me of a good many quarters by making long putts into a soup can on the hard-packed dirt of the caddy yard. Pap, the white-haired, dark-skinned caddy master, liked me enough to let me fish with him at five thirty in the morning in the creek that ran through the golf course and the neighborhoods of my paper route.

The truth is somewhere, lost in memory and my slowish moral awakening. I was feral in those days. Working for spending money, going to school, sparring with my father. I knew a lot of black folks, and liked them, but somehow I didn’t understand their lives. My only excuse, I suppose, is that in those days I didn’t even understand my own.

When I went to college, my new best friends were card-carrying C.O.R.E. members. They had been Freedom Riders that summer. That was the beginning of awareness for me. Still, it has been a long time coming.

New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl, a Nashvillian herself, says Nashville likes to tell itself that it peacefully accepted integration. Not really, she says, in her review of a photo exhibit of the time titled “We Shall Overcome.” I ordered the book. It will do me good, even all these years later, to see now what I didn’t see then.

But this is more than history. We’re at it again. And while I may have been oblivious to the plight of blacks in the South in the fifties and sixties, I understood the white Southern man very well. They weren’t all Deliverance rednecks, but there was an authoritarian entitlement about them that was generous and kind at its best and venal and brutal at its worst. That streak ran up and down the income scale. 

That’s the kind of man we are dealing with today. He’s wounded, but he’s not dead yet, and he’s dangerous. The Randy Newman song “Shame” has these lines: “My father, he was an angry man. You cross him, he made you pay.”

My father was like that. I’m not sure it’s fair to call him angry—he was as charming as they come most of the time—but he was quick to anger. When I, or anyone, crossed him, he made us pay.

That’s the man we have in the White House now. That’s many of the Republican men in Congress. I may not have understood blacks when I was eighteen, but I knew those men. I understood them. I knew them well enough to know the best thing I could do was get away from them.

So I can tell you with complete confidence, we need to get away from them now. Or, more precisely, get them away from us. They’re dangerous. If we cross them, they’ll make us pay. 

Don’t wait for the next rage attack, the one that might put not just our constitution at risk but our lives. They’re a lot of nukes in unstable hands these days, including ours.

Don’t sit around thinking someone else is going to solve the problem. It’s up to us. Thankfully, there is something we can do that is both easy and effective.

Vote.

I Know...but I Couldn't

I couldn’t do it.

I said I was going to withdraw from political discourse. I said I was going to escape into the fictional world of my novel. The good news is that I am doing the latter, but it looks like I can’t do the former. Too much at stake, I guess. Or maybe I just can’t get over believing we can think our way out of the political mess we’re in, that this time it won’t take a civil war to break our partisan fever.

I’m posting a new piece today that draws lessons from my personal history growing up in the south. For a longer perspective, Jill Laporte has a new book called These Truths: A History of the United Stares. There are staggering lessons to be learned from the brutal truths of our past. (Here is Andrew Sullivan’s excellent review in today’s New York Times.)

We need to talk about these things. We need to understand what we have done and why. We may be driven by base instincts, but can we not still reason? We have to try.

And I still want (need) to be part of that process.

Friday, August 24, 2018

So Long, for a While

I’m dashing out the door, so this is just a quick note to let you know where I’m going and when I’ll be back. So you won’t worry.

For a while now I’ve been writing a new novel, called Illusion. It’s a father/son story. Apparently, for me, there is no other story. This one is fun, in part because even though I’m a fourth to a third of the way through a first draft, I can’t see the ending clearly. And perhaps because of that, I’ve dawdled and dodged and done everything else but dig in. My characters are all sitting around a table in a mountain diner, waiting for me to re-join them. They are about to say things to one another that can only be said by people who know what happened. So I have to settle down and figure that out before they start talking.

I’m going back into Hemingway mode, as to process if not result. He wrote five hundred words every morning and fished every afternoon. I even have my own Martha Gellhorn, always itching for excitement, to take me off to new places to write in the morning and play in the afternoon.

As to when I’ll be back to this blog, I’m not sure. When I feel like it, I suppose. Not when I feel I have something to say, but when I feel like saying it. Two very different things.

This blog is called The Dad App. That’s how it started: talking about my kids, about trying to be their father. As they, and their material, drifted off into their adult lives, I wrote about my own father, and my mother. Then I started in on the kind of world I’d like for my children. Inevitably, that led to politics, a most unrewarding subject these days. 

So I’m going to leave the politics to the voters. All I have to say at this point is think about it before you pull the lever in the voting booth. Think about the world you want for your children. It’s up to you. That’s a big responsibility. Not quite as big as raising your own children, but not as different as some think. Inputs yield outputs. It’s a law of nature.

Maybe I’ll see you around. Look for the guy sitting in a green lawn chair in the Tuileries, looking serious, but not feeling it one bit.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

America, Love it or Leave it.

I’m reading a book about the rise of Nazi Germany, and it’s making me mad. I’m sad about what Hitler and his henchmen did to Jews and gypsies and anyone who opposed them, but I’m mad that it’s happening again. Right here in the good old U.S. of A.

Vienna is rioting, Hitler said. I have to go in to restore order. The Austrians implore me.

Muslims in New Jersey celebrated as the World Trade towers collapsed, Trump said, as part of his justification for his Muslim immigration ban. We need to get those people out of here, that was his message.

Hitler burned books and imprisoned anyone who wrote the truth about what he was doing. Trump has done a pretty good job of turning many of us against the liberal media, those purveyors of FAKE NEWS. Or, as the rest of us know it: the truth.

Hitler only wanted Poland, he told the appeasers. Trump has lied about his intentions on so many fronts, it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s one that’s going to hurt a lot of people: he promised to keep healthcare protections for pre-existing conditions; now his justice department is saying they are unconstitutional.

When I was growing up in the South, it seemed like a particularly patriotic area. Big signs along the highways proclaimed our love of our country and our culture: “Impeach Earl Warren” (the author of the Supreme Court’s school-desegregation decision, a clearly un-American point of view in the south in 1954). “America, Love it or Leave it” nicely summed up a widely held sentiment.

So, I did.

Or at least I left the part of the country that I thought was still uniquely in the thrall of Jim Crow’s inability to accept the outcome of the Civil War.

I went to L.A. It was not long after the Watts Riots. Ronald Reagan was the governor. I should have realized that racism and xenophobia weren’t confined to the South, but I was young and naive and idealistic. 

Now I know. 

I never thought Trump would be elected. I thought we were better than that. So did Jon Stewart. We were both wrong.

Jon Stewart said he quit The Daily Show because he was tired of being so angry. He said watching Fox News to get material for his show was like being a “turd miner.” He said he hoped he didn’t get “turd-lung disease.”

I wish he’d hung in there. Maybe he could have kept us sane and grounded enough to not fall under Trump’s charismatic spell. I doubt it, though. Only people who already agreed with him watched his show. That and those who wanted sound bites to mock him.

Well, I’m with Jon now. I’m angry. And, like him, I’m tired of being angry, but (no offense intended to Jon, who did yeoman’s work for 15 years) I’m determined not to quit. We’ve all seen what happened when the good people of Germany stopped resisting. That’s all it takes for the cancer of hatred to spread. 

We are our body-politic’s immune system. We are weakened now, but we are not wiped out. We need to fight. We need to attack. If we don’t, our way of life will die. Just as it did in Nazi Germany. Just as it did in Fascist Italy and Spain. Just as it does whenever good people look the other way until it is too late.