History has its eyes on you… Hamilton, Candide, and Wonder Woman

The last couple months were packed with entertainments and philosophical exchanges with family and friends. The upshot is that we cannot escape from politics right now, even when we are enjoying ourselves. Here are some highlights.

We enjoyed an excellent musical production of Candide produced by the Musical Theater Works company in Evanston. Yet there was a nagging something that tarnished enjoyment, for me at least. This story reminds us that good art is timeless. Voltaire could not have predicted Trumpians any better. How impossible it was not to picture Trump in the vain brother, Melania in the shallow jewelry-loving Cunegonde, etc. Ultimately the main characters were revolting, even Candide whose professed innocence belied his murdering selfishness.

Similarly, we finally got our family to Hamilton in Chicago. This was so well done and anticipated that people were laughing at jokes before they finished, and singing along in certain spots. Yet, my experience of it was filtered through my awareness of current political events. You are supposed to weep at the loss of a character toward the end. I did, a little. But my sobbing moment was when Washington revealed his haunting awareness that, “History has its eyes on me”. I took this to heart. I took it personally. This is the moment we will answer to later in our lives.

We have choices in what we believe and what ideas we surround ourselves with, even what ideas we entertain ourselves with.

Do we entertain ourselves by reading dystopian Atlas Shrugged as Paul Ryan recommends to inform our world view? Or do we read Steve Bannon’s apocalyptic obsessions?

Or do we choose the messaging that typifies us as Americans, uplifting, promising, liberating and empowering?

My top pick this summer is Wonder Woman  (a must see movie, though you will cringe at Steve Mnuchin’s name in the credits) which captured the essence of our modern-day conflicts in our quest to save humanity, “It’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe”.  And also, “If you see something in the world that isn’t right, you can either do nothing, or you can do something about it.”

“Look, A New Day Has Begun”! Ben Vereen, Credit Unions and the ACLU

sunrise

This weekend I had the extreme pleasure of enjoying Ben Vereen’s performance at Dominican University’s Annual Gala for student scholarships. The University’s mission is to “…prepare students to pursue truth, to give compassionate service, and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world.” This coupled with Vereen’s “vibration of love” as he put it, left a lasting impression of positivity and hopefulness.

I love his music, but many of you may most fondly remember him, as my husband does, for his role as Chicken George in the classic TV mini-series Roots (If you have not seen this, make the time!). As Vereen inevitably walked us through years of American history with his musical revue of Broadway hits (“Memory”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Aquarius”) and other classics, (“Chicago”, “Summertime“, “Standby Me”, “What a Wonderful World”), the moments were poignant with recollections of hardship, social change, and triumph of America and Americans.

Other events this weekend buoyed spirits. Consider the ACLU’s PeoplePower.org debuting online (Must see). Even Democrats got it together last Wednesday with the first Democrats Live virtual Town Hall meeting (Subscribe for future meetings). And the best part of this weekend was celebrating a local Credit Union who supports hardworking people every day, unlike the “foreclosure king” who now serves in Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of Treasury.

Immersed in this positivity, perhaps I can stomach Trump’s cabinet member Ben Carson, who recently and ridiculously equated slaves with immigrants. Perhaps I can handle the fact that kids at my son’s school are making Hail Hitler gestures and calling him and others “the Jew”. Perhaps I can see Trump’s audacious wiretapping lie for what it really is, which is a reckless effort to distract news from his corrupt Russian ties. See Russian ties visual or (incomplete) Russian Video Timeline. Perhaps.

The hatred stirred up, amplified, and downright created from whole cloth in Right-Wing political rhetoric and strategy, is ugly. But we have seen uglier. And think how far we have come.

So I will try to let Ben Vereen’s voice resonate stronger and linger longer. I could feel his belief in “What a Wonderful World” and hear his haunting conclusion to “Memory“, which seemed to usher in the resistance as a dawning of enlightenment, “Look, a new day… has begun”.

 

Selling off the North Pole. The Ghost of Christmas Past (or Future?)

You might think from the headline that I am about to write about how Russia is racing to own the Arctic, and how Rex Tillerson is chummy with Russia (Tillerson is currently testifying in confirmation hearings to be Secretary of State), or even how Trump denies climate change and has chosen cabinet picks, Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry, who are also climate deniers

Alas no. At dinner my kids wanted to know if internet hype was true about Trump’s press conference yesterday….Did Trump try to pass off a mound of blank papers as evidence that he has been hard at work in distancing himself from his businesses?  So of course we visited Snopes.com who neither denies nor confirms the allegation, listing it as “unproven”.

But here is the funny thing…there was another Snopes article about a 1950’s TV series Trackdown (S1, E30) with a snake oil salesman named Trump (WATCH THE CLIP) who tried to convince the town to “build a wall” to protect itself, saying “I alone can help” and warning how “a big lie can turn people into kids”, easy to manipulate. Wow.

And this reminded me that during Christmas, there was a random TV movie, Twice Upon a Christmas (2001) airing about how Santa’s wicked daughter was slyly selling off pieces of the North Pole and plotting to sell the land to, you got it, Donald Trump, who planned to score with a new casino and hotel. Naturally this was killing off the Christmas Spirit and the good daughter had to fight to bring the Christmas Spirit back again.

So even if people don’t read professional newspapers, they watch movies, right? Granted this was a bad movie, but we’ve got plenty of classics like A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version is my favorite) and It’s a Wonderful Life to remind us that extremely wealthy people can be greedy, mean, and power hungry. Don’t put them in charge of your policies and freedoms!

But back to the North Pole, because this all ties together…Trump’s parlor trick with the files (a confidence man maneuver) reminds us that he has too much in common with the snake oil salesman from the the 1950’s TV show. Also, his law firm (coincidence or not) serves to remind us that Trump is too cozy with Russia and big oil interests. Trump’s lawyer who spoke at his press conference comes from a law firm whose Russian office was named as Russia’s top law firm last year, not surprisingly specializing in energy and banking. Trump is doubling down on fossil fuels (not modern alternative energy).

At this point, Trump already put a damper on the Christmas Spirit of 2016. How long before his policies destroy the environment, kill our crops, and cause economic disaster and human suffering. I want policy-makers who are concerned with Christmas Future.

Why Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Happy New Year! I am feeling better than ever after a fantastic holiday visit with twin baby nephews, sisters, and Vegas performers. Now I am looking forward to the March for Women in Washington, January 21, to which my 13-year old son will accompany me. Are you going or someone you know, take this 30 second headcount survey.

Why do I march? Because marching unites us and is good for democracy. Because even though I have a special love for men (Hi Honey and boys!), I genuinely like women. Because I laughed out loud all four times I saw the Ghostbusters reboot (that’s right…I got the eighties jokes, and I enjoy female banter, and I appreciated the irony of gender role reversal). But most of all I march because standing up for one marginalized group means standing up for all of them, all of us.

How we treat women in any given society is a litmus test for how civilized, fair and advanced that society is. But make no mistake, when I march for women I am also marching for minorities, and men, and the rust belt, because all of us take turns being down and out (some of us just spend longer in the down and out position than others). At the end of the day, sexual harassment/discrimination, racism, nationalism, etc. all stem from the same roots: power, abuse of power, and how to divvy resources to maintain power.  It’s about getting away with it simply because you can, and about dividing people to make it easier to control them, and about limiting resources to some in order to enrich yourself.

When people abuse power, they no longer deserve power. No matter if it is in the locker room, the bus, the classroom, the workplace, or our Nation’s top leadership.

Republicans abused their power then they made their pact in 2008 to oppose Obama every step of the way, even when they agreed with him, even when it was best for the country to agree with him; their sole purpose was to “get back in power”, (seeking absolute power) not to use their power for the good of the country by doing the hard work of compromise. And Trump abuses his power almost daily with lying, irresponsible, reckless, and unethically self-enriching tweets.

So I will don my knitted pussy hat (gift from a dear friend) as we stand indivisible and march for all of us.

It’s a Wonderful Life. You stand between Bedford Falls and Pottersville

As an uplifting exercise this post-election season, I recommend you revisit the classic movie It’s A Wonderful Life. I just watched it with my 10-year old, a five-tissue event.

It puts Trump’s cabinet pick for Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin into perspective. He is the evil, profiteering Mr. Potter. His bank OneWest, under his leadership, was called a “foreclosure machine” following the recession. And Trump’s decision to put him into a position of power is moving us closer to a Pottersville nation.

See the Trump voter who “felt sick” when she realized that Trump just appointed the guy who acted like Mr. Potter toward her and her fellow citizens by greatly profiting from tricking people into losing their homes and taking tax dollars to do it.

Write to your U.S. Senator, and ask your Republican and Democratic friends to write to their U.S. Senators, to block the appointment of Steven Mnuchin.