…the world according to..

…Donald Trump.

Trump paint’s the world around him with broad strokes. Just as he employees hundreds of Hispanics, Trump has lots of Muslim friends. However when asked specifically about derogatory statements he’s spouted…claiming Mexicans are “rapists and murderers,”…and agreeing with the birthers that Obama was not born in America…Trump refuses to acknowledge his stupidity.

Trump is like a blind man painting the world as he “sees” it. Not that the handicapped are incapable of creating beauty from seemingly nothing, it’s only that Trump is an ignoramus. He refuses to see what’s right there in front of him. He chooses to pick and choose what he sees…and ignores all the rest.

So where do the rest of us fit into Trump’s purview of the world?

Obviously we’re all dummies to Trump. Those of us who believe the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate, and those of us who believe in the goodness of individuals, refusing to lump them all together within an ethnic group.

And why doesn’t Trump counter the extremists among his own followers? Those who hate that the President is a black man, and worse that his name is proof-positive (to them) that Obama is Muslim. It’s because Trump, a supposed sophisticated man of the world, really is an uneducated bumpkin at heart. If not for his wealthy trappings, he would just as easily fit in with the right-wing element of the Republican Party who want to be left alone and have nothing to do with a society that believes we are all one people.

Donald Trump has a lot to say…much of it off the cuff. Whatever goes on in his head seems totally preoccupied with dollar signs and self-promotion. He does NOT represent Americans……me, most of all. So I wish he’d stop saying he’s what Americans want. He’s what a small minority wants. Thank goodness the majority of us sees the world…

…as it is.

………hugmamma.

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reality vs. freedom and hope, dr. william petit

How does one wrap one’s brain around the horrific murder of a mom and two, untainted, beautiful, young daughters, one 17 and the other 11? Where do you begin to unravel the tightly wound “spool” that commingled the thread of 6 lives? How did they become entwined? Was it perchance, or was it fate? Where was God when this crime against humanity, against Him, occurred?

Apart from hearing of the Petit murders sensationally broadcast all over TV when they happened in 2007, I didn’t care to delve deeper into the crimes. Certain acts, like these, register too close to home to want to acknowledge them head on. It’s easier to turn away, so that your brain doesn’t absorb all the evil details, so that your imagination doesn’t prohibit you from living without fear.

 The Petit family may have lived a privileged life by virtue of Bill’s being a physician. Maybe that sealed their fate that day. But when one of the co-conspirators, Joshua Komisarjevsky, randomly selected Jennifer Petit and her daughter Michaela in a local supermarket as possible victims, he didn’t know that they were of above average means. Not until he and his partner, Steven Hayes, were well on their way to committing the heinous crime, did they establish how much money, $15,000, they could abscond. So the Petits were stand-ins for any number of American families. The configuration of victims and dollar amount might have differed, but the crime would have played out somewhere, according to the whims of the 2 men who decided to play God.

Dr. William Petit spoke with Oprah, allowing us insight into a victim’s agonizing recovery. Looking at him, only a “shell” remained. He has reconciled himself to living, deciding that suicide would remove any possibility that he could rejoin his loved ones in the after-life. Slumped on the formal sofa, eyes squinting from behind eye glasses, Bill’s voice barely resonated. Oprah seemed to infuse life into him with her gentle probing. Perhaps the interview was cathartic to the doctor’s healing process. It’s obvious he’s in need of a spiritual transfusion.

Having lost his family and his home, which the criminals burned to destroy the evidence, Petit has lost the essence of his identity. He was Jennifer’s husband, and father to Hayley and Michaela. Without them, it’s difficult to heed well-meaning advice from those who tell him to “live in the moment.” His past gone, and his dreams of the future destroyed, he feels disconnected from the present. Upon leaving the cemetery with his sister one day, he asked her “Who am I? Whose clothes are these?” No longer the same person, Bill is unconvinced that he will find happiness, or love once again. Because he suffers post traumatic stress, he gave up his medical practice, something he says Jennifer would want him to resume. He claims to have “good” days, and “bad” days. His sister is saddened on the days when her brother is unable to get out of bed, or when he shuts himself in a room, away from life.

“What is it called when you lose a child?” Petit asks Oprah. He explains that when a husband loses his wife, he’s called a widower; when a wife loses her husband, she’s a widow. The talk show hostess suggests that it’s unnatural for a child to die before its parent, so there is no word to describe his position after the loss. Petit agrees. When asked if he can forgive those who took the lives of his loved ones, Bill first lists crimes which could be forgiven, a car accident, a theft, verbal diatribes. But, he says, “it’s inappropriate to forgive the essence of evil.”

Talk of his daughters momentarily lights up Bill Petit’s eyes which twinkle, a smile creeping across his face. He had a special relationship with the eldest, Hayley, whom he nicknamed “KK Rosebud.” Her favorite saying had been “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Smart and athletic, Hayley was bound for Dartmouth where she would continue to participate in sports as she had in high school. Had she known first love? According to her father, Hayley was in love with someone a year younger in school, for whom she would interrupt her studies to shoot hoops. Petit wished his daughter had experienced true love, before her life was snuffed out.

Michaela, the youngest, liked gardening, but loved cooking more. She cooked the family’s last meal together. Petit remembered it as being a very good meal.

Jennifer, Petit’s wife and partner in managing their lives, was a nurse and surrogate mom to the students in the boarding school where she worked. Amazingly, she also suffered with multiple-sclerosis, though she never complained about it, according to those who knew Jennifer. Daughter Hayley had started a foundation to support MS research in the hopes of saving her mom from the disease. After their deaths, Precious Petits continued the cause. Bill Petit sees the foundation’s purpose as three-fold. First, to fund educational programs, such as those in the sciences, especially to benefit young women; second, to fund MS research; and third, to help victims of violent crime.

Helping others has eased Petit’s heartache, as has knowing that the world is filled with many good people, like those who have contributed to the foundation. He knows too that Hayley and Michaela would want him to be happy. God isn’t to blame, instead they’re at a standoff, says Bill, a Christian. “He has nothing to do with what happens on earth.” Petit’s probably right.

Seems to me we’ve been given all we need to live our lives, including making our own decisions, correctly or incorrectly. There are cultures which see God manipulating their lives; that’s not our culture. Americans believe in freedom, for everyone. We also believe in hope, that we will live our lives without violence. But we know that reality is ultimately, an uncertainty. We can’t control what lies beyond our reach. So we enjoy our freedom, and hope, in silence, that our lives will be harmonious. That was Bill Petit’s expectation of his family’s life in suburban Connecticut.

But what reality subtracts from our lives, hope and freedom restores. Life is change, in small ways, as well as sizeable ones. These “detours” are the sum total of who we are, at the end of our lives. Bill Petit has just taken a detour on his journey through life, and he’s decided to go the distance. Somehow we all dig deep for the courage to go forward. What’s the alternative? Quitting? I think we’re too curious a species, not to want to know what might be just around the corner, or behind door #2, or awaiting us with the dawn of a new day. Who knows? The grandest of all gifts might still be waiting on the horizon.

Reality is, what is. Freedom and hope are what can be.

for Bill Petit as he discovers “what can be,” huge hugs…hugmamma.

 

something in common, Obama and the electorate

Am posting the words of another author, as I’ve done before. Bret Stephens’ article, “Not the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For,” appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s OPINION page, on November 2, Election Day. It doesn’t seem he’s a fan of Obama, but it’s for sure he’s not a fan of the electorate who voted the president into office, especially those complaining about his performance now. I don’t agree with all he says, but what Stephens posits is thought-provoking. You, dear reader, can decide for yourself.

And so, today, the American people will seek an honest reckoning with Barack Obama. Good luck with that. Whatever his other virtues–not the least of which is campaigning on tautological slogans while passing himself off as Marcel Proust–this president will never be distinguished by his humility: Don’t expect from him a decent admission, as George W. Bush had the decency to admit after the 2006 midterm, that his party had sustained a “thumping.” Instead he will immediately decamp to places where he is still admired. That means exiting the country.

So expect no reckoning there. Nor should Americans expect one with the Democrats. If the party does a little less disastrously than anticipated, it will rally like a stock whose quarterly losses are slightly less bad than had been projected. And if it’s Götterdämmerung, then we already know the narrative: secret sources of funding, plus a failure of communication. On which last score, they have a point: When your “accomplishments” consist of legislation nobody is allowed to read prior to the vote, and nobody can comprehend after it, then no wonder the swine have failed to take appreciative note of the pearls.

No, the only reckoning Americans can hope to get–and the one they most need to have–is the one they’re least likely to seek. That is a reckoning with themselves.

Pundits, particularly those who lean right, are schooled always to praise the wisdom of the electorate. Please. Only three years ago, Americans became acquainted with a junior U.S. senator with an interesting personal history, notable rhetorical gifts, programmatically liberal ideas and zero legislative accomplishments. Whereupon he was hailed as a saint and elected president.

In Argentina or Venezuela such behavior may be unexceptional. But we’re America, as they say: We’re supposed to be into celebrity culture, not cult-of-personality politics. What happened?

Maybe Americans were sold on Mr. Obama as the man who could deliver them from the financial crisis. I don’t buy it. Six months before Lehman Brothers collapsed, he delivered his instantly celebrated and soon forgotten race speech in Philadelphia. Historian Garry Wills compared it to Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. Others called it “stirring,” “brave” and “flat-out brilliant.” This for an address in which the candidate defended his anti-American, anti-semitic pastor by outing his dying white grandmother as a woman prone to racist slurs.

Alternatively, perhaps Americans believed that Mr. Obama could make the United States beloved in the eyes of the world again. And maybe there’s something to this. He did wow them in Berlin. But what kind of electorate surrenders itself to the good opinion of a Kreutzberg Kaffee-klatsch or a Damascene hookah bar? As president, Mr. Obama also offered an outstretched hand to Iran and gave a big speech in Cairo to the Muslim world at large. Yet Iran continues to enrich, and the parcel bombs keep getting posted in the mail. How did anyone ever expect it would be otherwise?

The answer is that as in relationships, so too in politics: Infatuation clouds judgment. You bank on the empty promises even as you refuse to take the object of your desire at his most precise word. Americans disillusioned today with the president for his health-care legislation, his refusal to extend his predecessor’s tax cuts, his ties to labor unions and groups such as Acorn, and his belief in the regulatory state, can’t honestly say that they were promised otherwise during the campaign. They got almost exactly what they voted for–or at least they got an honest political stab at it. If Mr. Obama now thinks that they have no right to complain, he has a point.

True, the president hasn’t delivered on the promises of unity–of postracial, postpartisan, perhaps even post-American politics. These days, it’s friends versus enemies, the politics of right-thinking people versus the politics of fearmongers.

That’s not surprising. What is surprising are the masses of people who gave themselves over to the fantasy of unity in the first place. In a democracy, disunity is not just the reality, it’s the premise. To wish for unity is to wish for an entirely different kind of politics, or perhaps something beyond politics itself, like religious transcendence.

Americans spent most of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st fighting against that kind of wish, which goes by the name of totalitarianism and comes in fascist, communist or Islamist varieties. No, I’m not saying Mr. Obama is a closet totalitarian; on the contrary, he’s nothing if not a partisan pol. But the people who donned those creepy T-shirts with Mr. Obama looking to the far distance like a latter-day Che Guevara were wholly in the mold of Eric Hoffer’s true believers. In an earlier era they would have found their life’s purpose as followers of Shabtai Tzvi, William Davies or Father Divine.

And so Americans go to the polls. Democracy being what it is, it holds not only our leaders to account, but our own political choices as well. Plainly Barack Obama was not the one we’ve been waiting for. But let’s have the grace to admit we weren’t the ones we’d been waiting for, either.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com

 I’m not sure who Stephens dislikes more, the president or those of us who elected him. While there certainly are many who are disenchanted with what Obama has, or has not, done; there are probably just as many, like me, who feel he has tried to do the best with the “hand he was dealt.” Yes, he has had to compromise, to pass through legislation. He might have preferred to write a new set of Ten Commandments, obligating us to do as he says. But alas, the presidency is not a “one man show,” contrary to current popular belief. He too, has had to make “detours,” which he probably hadn’t bargained for. That’s life. Even presidents are allowed to make mistakes. George W. Bush did, and it almost landed us into another Depression.

I’ve never thought of Obama as a “saint,” or a “messiah.” I reserve that for my husband, who has to put up with me. He might even claim that’s a bigger job than running a country. Actually, I thought of the President as a guy from Hawaii who was going to encourage the rest of America to do things the way the 50th state does, with “Aloha Spirit.” It may be, that the other 49 states aren’t ready for our laid back, accommodating, everybody’s-got-a-place-in- the-sun, attitude.

The island way is not perfect, that’s for sure. But most visitors to Hawaii leave feeling it’s a special place, where the people are special. It’s an inherent mind-set, where the natives prefer to “get along” with one another, rather than expending energy coveting what belongs to others. Maybe we’re “pupule” (crazy) to think the “Aloha Spirit” can thrive outside of the islands, but it’s just not in our nature to stop trying. Growing up in Hawaii, I’m sure the “Aloha Spirit” rubbed off on the President. So it may have been naive of him to think he could govern with it, but perhaps he knew no other way. Like us, his personal “baggage” is the framework from which he operates.

Sarah Palin brought her 49th state experience to the national political scene, as did Obama who brought his life experience in the 50th state to bear in his political career. I wonder if these two who hail from “the last frontier”, and “an island paradise,” respectively, can truly find commonality with the electorate throughout the other 48 states? Whether or not they can, they are both major league players in our country’s politics.

Unlike Stephens, I think we strive for unity in our democracy, even though we may fall short. America’s Founding Fathers were religious men, whose beliefs permeated the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. So maybe it’s not so far-fetched to think that we unconsciously, or consciously, incorporate our spirituality into our politics. Maybe it is fanciful thinking, but I like to believe our souls are what elevates us to be guardians of all that is available for our use on earth.

I’m not a fan of Stephen’s cynicism, but it did make me think.

how about you?…hugmamma.

cemetery parties

“More than a century ago, cemeteries were social hubs. They were often the greenest spots around. Families would visit on weekends for carriage rides, boating, or picnics by a loved one’s grave. Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery drew half a million visitors a year in the mid-19th century, on par with Niagara Falls.” According to an 8/12 Wall Street Journal article, cemetery socials are experiencing a resurgence. With more Americans opting for cremation, sales of burial plots are on the wane. All around the country prospective buyers have been lured to events on cemetery gounds, in the hopes that they might one day be chosen as final resting places. “In a marketing move that has drawn some criticism, graveyards across the nation are opening their grounds to concerts and clowns, barbecues and dance performances–anything that might bring happy families through the wrought-iron gates.”

At the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado, Big Band tune “Swinging at the Savoy” rocks out while couples boogie in the aisles, chowing down  hot dogs, fried chicken and brownies. Cedar Hill Cemetery of Hartford, Connecticut “holds regular scavenger hunts.” Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles projects films on mausoleum walls during the summer, drawing thousands. Disabled children are invited to fish in “a serene pond amid the headstones” at Michigan Memorial Park in Flat Rock, Michigan. “So Davis Cemetery in Davis, Calif., plans poetry workshops, bird walks and art shows. Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Neb., hosts a Shakespeare festival and rents its quaint chapel for weddings. In Wheat Ridge, Colo., Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery staged a Memorial Day party with fireworks and sky divers. And Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery in Riverside, Calif., recently hosted its first fair, drawing a crowd of 700 for face painting, live rock and In-N-Out burgers.”

While cemetery superintendents want to become a greater presence in their communities, there are naysayers who feel that cemeteries are strictly for the dead. But with very few complaints being registered, festivities on burial grounds seem destined to remain a permanent fixture. As an attendee at a recent concert at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, entrepeneur Ken Katuin explained ” ‘People tend to go to places they’re familiar with…That’s why McDonald’s has Happy Meals. You start out there as a kid, you have a happy memory of the place, and then when you’re an adult, you keep coming back.’ …Standing outside the mortuary, Mr. Katuin looked at the couples strolling through the darkening graveyard to hear jazz. ‘Maybe this,’ he says, ‘is their Happy Meal.’ ”

On a recent trip to Orange County, California, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I’d wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

While we went scavenging, we saw families here and there, quietly laying out assorted picnic goodies for luncheon feasts. I also saw a young woman, sitting peacefully among some trees, eyes closed, in deep thought or maybe meditating. I felt such calm as I strode about, or glanced out the car window, thinking that this would be a wonderful place to rest in eternal peace. But I’m not convinced I’d move to traffic-ridden, smoggy Los Angeles just for the privilege of being interred in Forest Lawn.

but it does take your breath away, literally…hugmamma.