Monday, February 20, 2017

UPDATE: NOT MY PRESIDENT'S DAY

     So, my friends, the app idea I described two posts ago is now officially on indefinite hiatus.  Without funding, we can't move it forward.  But, to my own surprise, I don't feel like curling up into a ball and sobbing for a week, because there are other guides out there, and people are using them, and they're working.  Everyone who cares about these things knows about Indivisible by now, and what a phenomenal job that small group of dedicated young people has done in training the opposition to adapt and use Tea Party tactics against this administration.  And remember how, shortly after the election, the ACLU tweeted that if Trump violated the Constitution, they would see him in court?  Well, they were every bit as good as their word, and I have complete faith that they're going to continue to be.  (Plus, as an added bonus for lawyers like me, they actually make our profession look heroic!  How often does that happen??) 
     As far as the specific purpose Call to Action was intended to serve - putting access to their Representatives at millennials' fingertips - there are other groups that are doing that.  Check out Countable.com.  That site has a lot of bells and whistles which millennials (and others) might find overwhelming, but it's full of valuable news and information, and if you do a little looking on the site it's not hard to figure out how to step up and make your voice heard.  If you prefer to use a simpler tool, try https://5calls.org.  It's not an app, but it does almost exactly what our app would have done: give the user up-to-the-minute information about the latest government outrages, and tell him or her the most productive options for getting involved.
     I'm sad about Call to Action, but much less sad than I would have been if there was a dire need for its existence but we couldn't get it off the ground.  But people around the country - red states, blue states - are rising up and shouting: Not on my watch, Trump.  If you want to go after the poorest, the sickest, the most vulnerable members of our society - and you've made it crystal clear that you do - you're going to have to go through me first.  BRING IT ON.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

AN UNFAIR COMPARISON





  Tomorrow it will be a year since we lost Murphy (top photo).  Today we lit a yahrzeit candle for him and talked about how incredibly lucky we were to have him in our lives for almost 10 years.  I've been trying to come up with a blog post for today, and then a little while ago the idea hit me: why not compare Murphy to Donald Trump?
     For Murphy, "me" was not a concept (except for the half hour of his family's dinner time each night, when I have to admit he was really annoying).  For 23-and-a-half hours a day, all Murphy thought about was "us."  We were his pack, which isn't unusual for pet dogs.  What was unique about him was the role he saw for himself within the pack.  All day, every day, he saw it as his job to make sure that his humans knew exactly how much he loved us. 
     It was a job he took with utter seriousness.  We took him and Finney for a hike almost every weekend, and as soon as we got into the car with them, Murphy would know where we were headed and would strain every muscle to reach our faces from the back seat so he could properly thank us.  And once we were out on the hiking trail, he might exuberantly run ahead of us sometimes, but (unlike Finney) he would never voluntarily lose sight of us.  He would turn around and check to make sure we were still following, and if one of us happened to fall behind, he would walk back and join us to make sure we were okay.
     But he unfailingly thanked us for smaller things than hikes, too.  Hugs, treats, belly rubs, walks on the leash - we got our faces and hands thoroughly scrubbed every time.  He seemed worried that we would be sad, that we would think he didn't care.   
     Now let's talk about Trump.  He's a man who doesn't understand the word "us."  Dogs are pack animals, and Trump would never have made it as a dog because he wants to be the alpha without taking any responsibility for the rest of his pack. The only word he understands is "me."  I was struck recently when I read about an interview in which he spoke (and possibly bragged - for him the two are almost indistinguishable) about how little of a role he played in his children's lives when they were younger; in fact, he never even took them to the park.  Early in my career, I spent five years working as a law guardian for abused or neglected children.  The most heartrending lesson I learned from that experience was that the more extreme the abuse or neglect these children suffered at the hands of their parents, the more fiercely they clung to them and protected them.  They believed that the reason their parents had rejected them was that they (the children) had deserved it, and they unremittingly wore themselves out in futile efforts to be better and to deserve better.  I see signs of this same syndrome in Trump's children.  There doesn't seem to be anything they wouldn't do to gain their absent, self-adoring father's approval.  And can you even imagine his thanking them?  That would require a recognition on his part that they were separate entities, and he literally does not seem capable of that degree of insight.
     And now, to my utter horror, this man has become the alpha dog of the United States.  And unlike Murphy, he has no natural dignity or humility.  He lacks the most rudimentary understanding of our tripartite system of government, of the role each branch must take to check and balance the roles of the other two. Yesterday he tweeted: "When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!"  He believes that he is the country - he alone, and not the judicial system, not the legislature, not even the rest of what passes for his executive branch.  He believes that he is the reincarnation of  King Louis XIV of France, and with every act he proclaims again and again, "L'etat, c'est moi."   He takes credit for everything that goes right, even (especially) when it was the prudent leadership of the man most Americans wish were still our President that made it possible.
     Murphy was born a grownup.  From his earliest days, he exhibited empathy and compassion, not least toward Finney, the 8-week-old juvenile delinquent we brought into Murphy's life when he was two years old, and whom he helped us to raise.
     Trump is 70 years old.  He is pure ego with no modifying id, and that's who he will remain to the end of his days.  He doesn't care about the future of Earth's environment because if he personally won't be around when we've managed to poison our planet until it can no longer sustain life, what does it matter?  Is this a man you can picture caring about the world his own grandchildren will inherit, let alone anyone else's?  He doesn't care about the wellbeing of anyone who opposes his policies; in fact, judging by his words and actions, he mocks them and seeks vengeance against them. The shallowness of his mind is on full display for all to see.  In the midst of the extraordinary level of chaos he's unleashed on this country and on the rest of the world, to what subjects does he return obsessively?  The size of his inauguration crowd.  The fictitious voter fraud during the election which (as has been established beyond all reasonable doubt) Putin helped him win.  The U.S., for all its many flaws, has been the leader of the free world for at least the last eight years, if not much farther back than that, and its current leader functions on the emotional level of a five-year-old.
     I miss you, Murphy, more than you could ever imagine.  And God, how I miss the security of knowing that Barack Obama was in the White House.  He was human; he made mistakes; but in those eight years combined, I never knew a fraction of the fear I've felt every waking minute for the last three months. 
     As I acknowledged in this post's title, the comparison between Murphy and Trump really is an unfair one.  A ludicrous one, to be more precise.  The caliber of these two beings is so vastly different.  There are few humans - even among those who have consciences and a sense of morality - who could measure up to a noble creature like Murphy.  Donald Trump?  He never stood a chance.


Monday, January 23, 2017

AN INTROVERT GOES TO WASHINGTON

     Here's my completely idiosyncratic take on Saturday's march in D.C.  First, the good news: about half a million people showed up.  Now the bad news: about half a million people showed up.
     After a ride on the D.C. metro that reminded me of the worst rush-hour crush on the NYC subway, my son and daughter and I arrived near the site of the march at about 9 a.m. and followed the throng to what we assumed would be a decent viewing area, since nothing was scheduled to start until 10.  By 10:30 or so we realized that the speeches had begun but that we could see or hear nothing of them.  The signs people were holding up around us were great, though.  "I'm With Her," and arrows pointing in every direction.  "America: What Were You Thinking??"  "Why Are You So Obsessed With My Uterus?"  Maya Angelou quotes  everywhere. A small girl on her father's shoulders, wearing a cape that read "Not Up for Grabs." 
     We had little space to move around and no idea where to go even if we could, so at 11 or so we left the march site to get something to eat.  We returned an hour or so later and stood around, waiting for the march to get going.  At some point we realized that we were being funneled in a particular direction, but had no idea why.  Then at about 1:30 the people around us began walking to, and then up, Pennsylvania Avenue, and we followed along.  The march was fun, partly because it was such a relief to get moving, but more because it felt empowering to be among hundreds of thousands of people who were so determined to resist the pseudo-election of our pseudo-president and his very real, very threatening agenda and appointments.
     Most of the marchers were women - elderly women with walkers and canes (one of my favorite signs was "I marched in the 60s and now I'm marching in MY 60s"); middle-aged women in clusters, representing states up and down the East Coast as well as other regions of the country; young mothers with babies strapped to their chests or toddlers hoisted on their shoulders; knots of millennials  focused on climate change and reproductive rights.  But men were well represented too, many of them carrying signs that said things like "Quality Men Are Not Threatened By Equality."
     One sign I didn't see, but which my son told me about, really struck a chord with me: "Things Have Gotten So Bad, Even the Introverts Are Out Here!"  Indeed.  I'm so glad I had my kids with me for protection; they made me feel less overwhelmed.
     But now the marches are over and we need to turn to the question of what we can do next.  Which brings me to the secret project I've been hinting about.  It's no longer secret, but it might also be no longer viable, which is where YOU come in!  My friend Julie, who designs websites and video games for a living, came up with the brilliant idea of creating a free app to make it incredibly easy for young people to become politically active via their phones.  Here's how it works: the user will check off boxes to indicate the issues which are most important to them.  The app will then send them an alert when a vote on a bill involving one of those issues is pending a vote in the House of Representatives.  It will give the user contact info for his or her Representative, and provide a sample script for a phone call to the congressional office.  That's basically it.  Beautifully simple.  The idea is that, until we can recruit other volunteers to help, Julie does all the tech stuff and I monitor pending bills and write short blurbs about them.
     Here's the problem.  We have zero seed money.  It costs money to develop apps, and so far Julie has financed everything by taking the money out of her savings.  We're now at a point where the app development is on hold, and we need some kind of assurance that it will have a following before we proceed with development.  Bottom line: we don't want to start a crowdfunding campaign until we have a reasonable number of followers first.  If the app sounds like a good/great idea to you, could you please show your support by following the Facebook page, facebook.com/CalltoActionApp, and/or the Twitter account, @calltoactionapp?  I want so badly to get this thing off the ground, and very soon, but we need supporters.  Please help, and please tell your friends to help too!  I will be eternally grateful.  Thank you!!!
       

Saturday, January 14, 2017

ORGANIZE. FIGHT. WIN.

     It's so strange.  It's been so long since I've had the heart to post, and yet my blog stats (the number of views I get per day) remain steady.  It makes me a little nervous to actually post something, to be honest.  What if people like my blog better when it just sits there and shuts up?
     Ah, but having a blog isn't just about collecting hits.  It's about communicating thoughts and feelings and, occasionally, even facts.  So let me share this fact:  I'm headed to Washington, D.C. this Thursday night, along with my daughter, to participate in the Women's March on Saturday.  It does make things convenient when you have a son who lives there and whom you don't see nearly often enough.  And when your daughter announces that he'll be kicked out of his bed for the three nights you'll be there and relegated to the couch so that she and you can sleep in comfort.  But I would be going anyway, and I expect to have plenty to say here when I get back.
     I still can't talk about my Secret Project.  It may or may not still be viable (having pretty much zero seed money doesn't help one bit).  But there's something else I want to share.
     If you want to become politically active but have no idea how or where to start, you have to check out the Indivisible Guide.  It's a very sensible, step-by-step manual designed and written by former congressional staffers for making your voice heard on a local level, and in a few short weeks it's gone viral.  These millennials watched the Tea Party spring from nothing and grow to take over the Republican Party, and they want to share those successful tactics with individuals who are committing to fighting the Trump agenda.  I saw one of Indivisible's founders interviewed last night by Rachel Maddow, and he said that Indivisible groups have now formed in every Congressional district in the country.  There is power in numbers, folks.
    Every day the media report on new outrages, and it becomes easier to think that we're living inside a Twilight Zone episode.  But we're not.  All of this is really happening.  Much of it is beyond our control, but I believe with all my heart that we can make a difference.  Working together, we can bring down this vile pseudo-President and his vile henchmen.  Please, please, leave me comments and let me know what you're doing to fight back!!  And I'll let you know what I'm doing just as soon as I can.

 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR?


     Yes, this is what 2017 holds in store.  But we can fight back.  We must, and we will.
     It's been a rough few months.  I haven't been steady enough to even post anything here since the end of November.  But now I have something I can't talk about yet because it's still in its baby stages, but it's starting to bring me hope that all is not lost.  Please stay tuned. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

RESISTANCE

     It feels like eons ago since I last posted.  It WAS eons ago.  Aside from identifying my daughter's sketch the day after the election, I haven't been able to find words adequate to the task of expressing what I'm feeling.  I've derived some grim satisfaction since then from being Bitter on Twitter (@unpubYA, in case anyone's interested), expelling short and mostly vicious bursts of sarcasm to describe the betrayal I feel at the hands of this country I've called home my entire life.  But putting together a coherent paragraph seemed beyond my ability.
     I went to my doctor a week ago Friday for a long-scheduled annual physical.  He told me my blood pressure was up, and started questioning me to figure out why.  No, my diet hadn't changed, my salt consumption hadn't changed, nothing had changed except my lifelong belief that America could never become a fascist state.  He suggested I was overreacting.  "The environment will be irreparably harmed," I said, for starters.  He waved that away as a minor concern; what was really important right now, he said, was that the country have a leader who would grow the economy, bring back the  manufacturing sector.  I talked a little more about the global economic abyss of eight years ago and the extraordinary job Obama had done since then to lower unemployment and lift us out of deep recession, but I gave up after a little while.  My doctor clearly wasn't buying any of my arguments.  He was a kind, intelligent, educated man who had obviously voted for Donald Trump, the most profoundly ignorant person who will have ever held the job to which he will ascent in exactly two months.
     Meanwhile, David Duke publicly exults at Trump's staff picks, a swath of hate crimes erupts across the country, and Trump repeatedly takes to Twitter not to condemn either of these things, but to excoriate both the press and private citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.  Every pick he has named so far has been worse than appalling.  The only way the nomination of Sessions as Attorney General could get worse would be if the Senate rolls over and approves him, thus cynically declaring that the fox would do a bang-up job of guarding the henhouse.  This is a man who believes that the concept of civil rights for minorities is un-American.
     I've tried to do a few things.  I closed my Amazon and Macy's accounts, specifying that I was doing so because of their continued entanglement with Trump business interests.  I've contacted both of my senators.  I've signed onto my friend Julie's secret project which is going to be amazing and empowering.  But I've spent a lot more time feeling enraged and powerless and hopeless.
     But last night I had an idea.  I attended an SCBWI writing craft conference last weekend, and I came back knowing that I have a lot of work ahead of me to revise my current work-in-progress.  A lot of cutting.  Establishing more clearly right up front what the main character wants.  And as I was struggling last night to implement some of these changes, I started thinking about how crucial diverse books are to the kidlit world, especially in these dark times.  And I remembered everything I've read and heard from editors and agents about how much they'd love to see books that have diverse characters but that are not ABOUT diversity; the diversity is not a plot issue, it's simply part of the fabric of the story.
     I thought about all of this for a long time, and at the end I decided that I want my protagonist's best friend, whose ethnic identity is currently unspecified, to be Muslim.  I want him to be part of a somewhat secularized American-Muslim family, but otherwise to basically remain unchanged from the person he already is.  I don't plan to include any didactic lessons about inclusiveness.  He'll just be a regular American kid, which is of course what Muslim kids are.  But I'll know the difference.  And maybe someday if and when this book gets finished and published, it will make some middle-graders think about the world a little differently than they otherwise would.
     I'm a writer.  I am living in deep dread of the damage one hate-filled demagogue and his minions will be able to inflict on my country and on the world over the next four years.There aren't many things I can do single-handedly to change the outcome.  But I can, and I will, change my book. 



    
      

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

LIBERTY WEEPS



(I commissioned this drawing from my daughter the artist.  I knew she could execute what I was seeing in my mind's eye, and she did.)