Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Tragically Disappearing Value of Letters

I have a letter dated 1852. It is written by an ancestor - Reuben Peacher - to his son-in-law Zachariah Elkins and his daughter Nancy Jane. The young couple, who had been married some three or four years by then (she had been only fifteen, but he almost a decade older), were living only a few counties away, but in an age when there was no email, no phone, no motorized vehicle, it was a few days journey. They both came from large, tight-knit families, and it must have been a big decision to leave; in a few years more, they would join the wagon train on the Oregon Trail, going from Independence, Missouri, to a new home at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

The letter tells us a great deal about them. It is written on light blue, unlined paper. The weight and quality is such that it has survived intact for 164 years. The black, uneven ink pen lines belie the use of a fountain pen. The hand is neat and well-schooled, the grammar good but not perfect. Spelling wasn't yet standardized. Reuben was educated. Zachariah was obviously capable of reading it - although he had been raised in the wilderness of Kentucky and later Missouri. I don't know whether Nancy Jane could not read or whether common custom dictated that the men should write to one another and bypass the women.

At any rate, Reuben had a bit to say, over two pages.  Although the details are mundane, they paint a picture of domestic life for a frontier family, and the very real individuals who lived what we can hardly imagine now. Imagine their world, where one couldn't exist without a horse or a plow or an ax or a rifle or a thorough knowledge of agriculture and hunting. Imagine staining your fingers with ink as you wrote, knowing that news of a death in the family or a new baby would take a week to get there. Imagine that visiting on a whim was impossible - a move across country meant saying goodbye for a very, very long time, if not forever. Imagine that our journeys of a few hours took days or weeks. This is the world the letter allows me to visit - and as I hold it in my hands I wonder about the hands that first made the creases in it and sealed it with wax, and then saddled the horse or hitched him to the wagon, to travel several miles to post it.

The point is, these letters can be held in a hand, my experience of it mingling with a man's of 164 years ago, his skin cells mingling with mine. Letters are a tangible piece of the evidence of lives of the past. And they are quickly fading from our experience.

When I was young, letters were a fact of life. There was no internet, no email. I wrote and received
letters from relatives who lived four states away, across the prairies and cornfields of the Midwest and West. I still have a few of those letters. When I was maybe about ten years old - my favorite grandmother taught me about writing a proper letter.  She said it had to begin with some personal news. Then, a good story - which must include some description or drama or something else of entertainment value to the recipient. And it should end with affection and some plan to write again or to see the loved one again. I have a few of her letters in a box; she's been dead for a few decades now. When I look at them I remember the way she formed words, and the slow, careful way she spoke. She had a wonderful, warm chortle in her voice. I marvel at the uniqueness of her hand and her style.  And I experience her again as an individual and miss her. Without those letters, I don't think I could get so close.

The earliest letters I have read were those written between kings in the early medieval period. Such as letters from Charlemagne, king of Franks (and part of what is now France) and the great Mercian (England) king, Offa. They survive on vellum, a material made from lambskin and dried. They are written in Latin, which in that world enjoyed the universality similar to today's English. They show the personalities, the daily concerns, and the world, of two powerful men in the eighth century. Twelve hundred years ago. I envy the researchers who protect these letters, and who have held them in their hands. A part of me believes that the energy of the past world travels through such objects - what a gift it is to reach back through time and touch the eighth century.

Letters exist between family members, friends and lovers, that reveal details of famous lives. Mozart's wife understood the enormous value of letters to reveal secrets: she burned all of the great musician's letters upon his death. I can almost forgive her - Mozart was mentally ill and so difficult to live with that she had left him years before and they lived apart. But in the end she was there, and his friend, and she had the foresight to protect his privacy.  She robbed us all of a glimpse into his mind and genius, of course.

The great Persian poet, Kahlil Gibran, enjoyed a decades-long romance with a woman through letters. It is believed that although their letters are affectionate and romantic and show devotion and respect, they never met face-to-face.

In December of 2015, a New York man was remodeling the fireplace of this vintage home and found letters over a century old - written by the two young children of an Irish immigrant family that had once lived in the house, to Santa Claus. Ten-year-old Mary's words reveal much about their lives, their values, and the thoughts of a generous-hearted little girl:

"Dear Santa Claus . . . My little brother would like you to bring him a wagon which I know you cannot afford. I will ask you to  bring him whatever you think best. Please bring me something nice what you think best. - Mary   P.S. Please do not forget the poor. "

Letters reveal the most intimate relationships of the famous people of the past, and also the lives and cares and dreams of people who no one would remember if not for a surviving letter - a bit of a person that survives for decades or centuries beyond death. What are we losing, as we allow the art of letter-writing - in my generation something so common - to fade from our experience?  What are we sacrificing?  How will people, hundreds of years from now, know how we spoke and how our experience of the world around us differed from theirs?  How will they know the things that letters have preserved for us about our past?

They will have books, of course, but letters are different. They are informal, intensely personal, and reveal personality more clearly than any carefully-written prose ever could.  How sad it is that people in the future won't hold the leaves of a letter, with beautiful handwriting and a lingering scent of perfume, in their hands and glimpse the private life of someone else who has passed away?

From now on people will not know the joy of receiving into their hands a personal letter - its paper once handled by the hands of a distant loved one or a lover, the individual's unique handwriting decorating the front. They won't know the surprise of finding a feather, or a piece of lace or fabric, a lock of hair, or other surprise. Or the familiar welcome scent of cigar smoke or perfume. The intimate nature and privacy of a letter is forever lost in the age of computers and emails.  Now, with schools discontinuing the training of children in handwriting skills, future generations won't be able to write a letter if they want to.

I have made a decision that soon I will have that old letter laminated, so that it will survive for decades to come. I won't be able to touch it anymore in the same way, and that bothers me greatly, but it's time to give that up in favor of its preservation. I hope that someone in a coming generation appreciates it as much as I have, and the view of the past and three pioneers' lives, that it offers.

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NOTES:

Reuben Peacher lived to old age and is buried in Howard County, Missouri, on the land that once belonged to his farm, from where he wrote the letter and many others. His grave still exists. His own father had come from Virginia and wealth but had been ousted from the family by his father, along with his brother. The two, once the heirs of a rich Eastern family, would eventually be hanged in the wilds of Kentucky for stealing horses. But their children, Reuben and his wife and first cousin Anne, would live the quiet life of farmers in Howard County, Anne preceding her husband in death by a few decades.

Zachariah Elkins took his young family by wagon train to Colorado around 1861. He worked as a cattle rancher on the eastern plains of Colorado Territory, until his death in 1880. In 1870 a census taker asked him what year he was born in, and he wasn't certain, according to a marginal note. But I know now that it was about 1825. Funny that I know and he didn't. He did know that he had been born in Missouri, but when asked where his parents were born he didn't know that either; it was Kentucky - of that I am certain. He died in his fifties, in 1880. His grave has been lost.

Nancy Jane Peacher Elkins was married to the boy who lived on the farm next door, about 1848, at fifteen. It must have been a bittersweet day, because only a few days earlier her 13-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister had both drowned, in the creek that divided the two farms. One can safely assume the brother died trying to save the sister, or the other way around. Several children still survived, including Nancy Jane, and life had to go on. She is buried in Colorado, between her son and his wife on one side, and an infant grandchild on the other. She lived well into her nineties, and was photographed with four younger generations, including my grandmother who is an infant on her lap.

I wonder if they would smile to know that I have and treasure that letter.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How Far Will the Lies Go? 9 Reasons Why Michelle Fields is not Believable

NOTE:  Late-breaking #10:  The video shows Lewandowski grabbing her upper arm. Her tweeted photo of bruises shows her lower arm.  Oops.

I didn't start out supporting Trump. I loved him in The Apprentice. But as a president?  Not so much. (Although I have to admit, nearly anyone would be more competent and principled a leader, in my view, than Obama.) Now, as the campaign progresses, we have seen a lot of nonsense, from all quarters. But I notice especially the nastiness with which the candidates attack Donald Trump. Maybe it's because he's a political outsider - the only non-career politician. Maybe it's because he represents a threat to the political establishment and the comfy status they all enjoy. Maybe they are jealous of his wealth and the fact he can run without being in any rich corporation's pocket. Maybe it's because he is a little like a junk-yard dog - he'll go over them with teeth bared if they dare to harass him. Whatever it is, it's become damned unattractive.

It's enough to make a person who is sitting on the fence, jump to the Trump camp.

One may argue that Trump can be equally vicious. The difference is that he doesn't pose as morally superior, a "true Christian", a politician with more class, more experience, more humanity. The self-righteous posturing, from Ted Cruz, to the insufferable Marco Rubio (I was once a fan), to John Kasich, is obvious to many voters for the self-serving hypocrisy it really is.

Since most of what the rumor mill produces about Trump has turned out to be nonsensical: either outright fiction or serious twisting of the original truth, those still spouting sound bites like "Trump is a racist!" "Trump hates women!"  "Trump steals from the poor!" -  look sillier and sillier.  A serious perusal of the man's accomplishments and a serious listen to interviews with his many friends - educated, accomplished, articulate people all - who offer a glimpse into the real character of the man, would convince the intelligent person to take a second look at him as a candidate.

It would be expected that the Left candidates and their reporters would be equally as nasty, of course, but they have taken it to a new level. They actively threaten and harass Trump supporters at rallies, blocking access to those rallies and threatening the organizations and venues that host them. They bully those who go to hear Trump and then play the victims for the press. Today, they've taken it up another notch.  A few weeks ago, a two-bit reporter was fired from her job at Breitbart News after lying about an encounter with a Trump staffer. Now, bitterly tweeting her anger for all to see, she has done her best to make trouble for the staffer, all the while falsely championing women's causes and hoping she'll do damage to Trump at the same time.

Former presidential candidate (and black leader) Herman Cain says what many are thinking: "The attacks on Trump have gone from ridiculous to stupid. . . this is another attempt to distract from his campaign."

Indeed. It seems Miss Fields may be seeking - again - her 15 minutes of fame. And this time it's at the expense of a presidential candidate she doesn't happen to like, and his employee.

1.  Michelle Fields, before she knew the episode was on tape, said to the press that Corey Lewandowski "almost threw" her to the ground.  Trump released the video, which clearly shows she lied.

2.  Fields waited 3 days to go to police with the story that Lewandowski attacked her.

3.  Fields at first said she did not know who pulled her to the ground. Later, after Lewandowski's name was offered by another reporter, she pounced on that. The video shows him touching her briefly to move her back from Trump. She complies, always on her feet, and doesn't show any reaction of distress whatsoever.

4.  Video shows that she, after the press period was over, pursued and Trump and grabbed his arm, still asking questions.  At that point even his bodyguards (Secret Service) reached for her to move her away. Lewandowski, whose job description includes acting as bodyguard to Trump, beat them to it.

5.  Michelle Fields, years back, accused the NYPD of throwing her to the ground, during her reportage on "Occupy Wall Street".  This was never charged.  (Info can easily be found on search of internet.)

6.  Lewandowski, in anger, sent out a tweet to Fields claiming he didn't touch her and had never even met her.  While those opposed to Trump call this a "lie", it is more likely that in the confusion of the crowd and his job as bodyguard, he simply moved a person away from Trump, and indeed did not speak to her or even look her in the face, and thus had no memory of her at all.  (And since video shows she did not, as she shrieked, fall to the ground, why would he notice?)

7.  Reporters are regularly jostled and bumped in a crowd situation. Field claims she had bruises on her arm from Lewandowski, but there is no evidence that he caused the bruises. 

8.  The "incriminating" videos all came from Trump himself, a man who has long understood the value of videotape for security purposes. Once Breitbart saw them and realized the extent of Field's dishonestly, she was immediately fired and a "cease and desist" order placed against her. 

9.  The District Attorney of Palm Beach is a Democrat. The accusation has been deemed by police to be worthy of investigation, since in Florida, merely touching someone without permission is a misdemeanor crime.  Lewandowski voluntarily turned himself into police for questioning but  has NOT been formally charged.

Meanwhile, Hillary of the HIdden Emails has jumped on the chance to point out the "sleaze" in the Trump camp and his hatred of women.  Never mind that she was happy to hobnob with him and take his money not so long ago.  And that beacon of Christian charity Ted Cruz has taken to the press corps to harp about how the Trump campaign is now engaging in "physical violence".  Yep, Ted, the violence on that video is pretty traumatizing! 

It's anyone's guess how much further the biggest character assassination attempt, arguably, in the history of American politics will go before this election season is up.




Friday, March 11, 2016

Enter the Age of Lies and Ignorance: The True Fascism

I can't remember the last time I was this angry. It is after 9:00 pm now, and I know I won't be sleeping tonight. I am by nature a very calm person; I can occasionally be very direct, some might say blunt. I tend to appreciate the irony in Life and I like dark humor. Some get the humor, and those who don't would say I can be snarky. But this . . . this heat tonight . . . this is rage. This is unfamiliar to me. This is something I feel about once every five years, and so as I sit here and feel my temperature rise, my heart pounding (guess that coffee I am craving won't be a good idea now), and notice how irregular my respiration is, I am not sure how to get myself back in order. Thank goodness I live alone.

When I was a teenager, many years ago, I had the opportunity to live in Europe for a time. Those were the days when East was divided from West by a "wall", which really consisted not only of a wall but of stone barriers and electric wire. Stretches of this were guarded by armed soldiers who would, and did, gun down the occasional human being who, driven to his wit's end by the injustice of an elite group of governing individuals deciding for others what they could hear and see and where they could travel, rushed the wall in a desperate attempt to grasp freedom even for a few moments before death. Or maybe it wasn't an attempt at all, but the ultimate last act of defiance of the human spirit.

We in the West - we kids in American schools (that was back when we were actually being educated)
were taught early about the Soviet Union and its history, and about those many souls trapped in the strange world of the Eastern Block and Russia. We learned early to appreciate their suffering. We learned early to understand the root of it, and how it came to be. We understood that we were fortunate and privileged, and that we would inherit a responsibility to find a way to end their suffering. If you asked 100 random university students today to explain that history, I wonder if even three - or one - could. The suggestion of that obligation would no doubt cause them to stare back in blinking dumb muteness. These are the walking blind, this generation of "millennials". The dire, horrible mistake that we have made in allowing our educational system to fail will be seen through the decades to come. We have created a generation of ignorant, spoiled, self-obsessed, perpetual children - useless to their society and to the rest of the world. Oh they want to "help" all right, but they haven't the power of mind to understand what in this world actually needs help, nor the ability to understand the power of sacrifice.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned my experience of a day trip into the Eastern Block, into East Berlin. It changed the way my young mind saw the world forever. As did the visit to a Holocaust survivors exhibit, and the experience of writing a term paper on a Russian writer imprisoned and tortured for years because he wrote books the government didn't like.

HE WROTE BOOKS THE GOVERNMENT DIDN'T LIKE AND WAS PUT IN PRISON.

This week the Obama administration has admitted that they are exploring the idea of criminal prosecution for people in this "free country" who disagree with Obama about climate change.  THEY WANT TO CRIMINALIZE IDEAS.  We have an attorney general, who as recently as a few months ago, suggested that "hate speech" - which she defines as criticizing the religion of one favored minority group - should be legally punishable.

And so it begins. The world of the U.S.S.R. - an acronym that chilled the blood of American school children for years, and not a few adults as well - is greedily peeking around the corner at a vulnerable world and calculating its chances of rising again.

Trump isn't always PC or eloquent, but he has the right to speak.
I had spent the evening with friends, bowling and eating. It's a welcome change on Friday evenings from the stress of a week of editing and writing. I came home to the news:  a political rally had been cancelled in Chicago, due to an organized group of rabble-rousers having entered it and started fights en masse with people who were simply there to hear a conservative speaker. Police were called, and became involved in a situation growing too violent to be brought under control in an easy and timely manner, and Donald Trump's campaign decided to postpone the event. The political group MoveOn.org, which has a history of being involved in "protests" which depend upon violent frenzied crowds of very young people, strategically designed to do harm to groups they don't agree with politically, is believed to be involved (and at this hour some of the group's members are confirming it).

In other words, a Leftist political, monied organization, has manipulated undereducated youth and others to do their dirty work of stopping the open dissemination of information they don't want to be heard.

Behind reporter at the rally riot, a protester flies a communist flag. 
The University of Illinois at Chicago - and mind you that the Univ. of Illinois is a STATE funded university system, depending upon your tax dollars and mine for its existence - has said that for many days faculty and staff have been petitioning the university to cancel the event, warning that it would create an atmosphere that would result in dangerous behavior and bodily harm. HUH? How did they know this?  I have to wonder who had a hand in it and knew beforehand of what kind of plans were underway to stop it. Given the atmosphere in our universities in 2016 - one in which conservative voices are silenced routinely by intimidation or direct threat and where young minds are indoctrinated to be wary of ideas that contradict the Left, instead of think critically according to their own values - it isn't surprising that this abomination tonight occurred at an academic venue.
In the past few years, event after event has been cancelled at universities due to the threats and protests coming from students wanting to silence others.  These children have no understanding whatsoever of the First Amendment or the history of the political process in this country, not to mention the concept of fair exchange of ideas.

Video of the protests is stunning. But not for the reasons one might predict.

  • The vast majority of "protesters" are obviously under 25. They are hardly old enough to wipe their own asses, they have no experience of a 9-5 career and a mortgage and grown-up life, and judging from the number of them laughing with their buddies as people were being slugged in the face and banners were being gleefully snatched and torn to shreds, they have spent very little of their tuition actually learning anything.  
  • Despite the very ironic screaming from the protesters about the "hate" of the Trump campaign, their own rhetoric and signage betrays some of the most exclusionary, bigoted, misguided, hateful, vile garbage that I have heard in this political season. I witnessed some of them questioned by reporters out on the street. When asked directly about this little irony, they seem not to comprehend the point at all; they justify their abuse and violence and silencing of other people by pointing out things about Trump's THOUGHTS they don't like. The arrogance of the assumption is mindbogling: as previous candidate and Trump supporter Dr. Ben Carson stated this evening, university students are being taught that when someone doesn't agree with them (and the Left P.O.V.), attack - even violent attack - is justified, because "we must fight hate".  And then they go on to list the things they hate about Trump's ideas. . . which leads to my next point.
  • These people understand nothing about Trump. They seem to be working with little real information, because their facts are so screwed up. One young man, when asked directly what Trump had said or done to make him feel justified in trying to stop a political speech, he said "he says he hates Islam!"  "he says all Muslims should be banned!" . . . then he mumbles, a defiant glint in his eyes, "and all that stuff about Mexicans! you know!"  Oh, we know all right. Never mind that what Trump actually said.  Which is that immigration from Muslim countries should be TEMPORARILY halted while we fix the vetting system, which the Obama administration admits is not working. Never mind that many in Congress agree. That is not hate, it's freaking common sense!  But some professor, or someone from MoveOn.org, has fed this young man and others just like him some sound bites that they swallowed like sweet little peppermint candies. Here is another young man's justification:  "The city felt they didn't like what Trump was saying so the city shut him down."  Never mind that thousands of the citizens of that city - young and old, Democrats as well as others - wanted to hear Trump. But thus is the level of reasoning of these jerks. A third young man, trying to speak to a reporter about why he had wanted to hear Trump, was heckled so loudly that he became frazzled and intimidated and couldn't speak to the microphone. I saw two more interviewed who when asked what they believed and why they were protesting, shrugged and said they didn't want to talk about it. (Translation: Drunk and nothing better to do on a Friday night.)
  • Many signs in the crowd of protesters supported Bernie Sanders. 
The irony lost upon student protestors and MoveOn.org. . . 
I am increasingly grateful that I came up in a generation where a higher education was offered in a thorough, balanced manner Most students would have been offended by a professor who used our class time to trumpet his or her own politics. That wasn't what we paid for. We paid for the facts, and we expected to be respected as budding adults who were capable of then making up our own minds. Today, I suspect professors think their students are malleable and somewhat naive, and care little for them at all. Our professors are some of the most intolerant people in this country, and they are carefully teaching that intolerance to our youth. As Dr. Carson says, it is interesting that "tolerance is only taught in one direction".  

Which brings me right back to the U.S.S.R.  In that system, there was one favored political ideology. It was a socialist ideology, eerily compatible with the liberal progressive ideology shoving its angry words down others' throats today. Like today's Left, it also fancied itself as the Savior of Humanity, as the only fair and just way, as the only humanitarian way, as the way of the future.  It felt so confident in this idea that it justified the murders of millions, the silencing of generations, the jailing of innocent people for lifetimes, behind a wall.  It sent writers and other "dissenters" to prison.  The religion of Bernie Sanders - that one that is based on the false idol of a vast government parent that pays all the bills and solves all the problems and controls anyone who has too much of a unique voice - is the religion of the New Left of the youth in our universities. 
Bernie Sanders is a silly old man that has no fucking idea what socialism really is. If he did, he would not embrace it. Or.... think about this: maybe he understands it very well, and like those silly old men who ran the monster that was the U.S.S.R., knows that it is the way to power for a select elite at the expense of the ignorant masses. He and his ilk want these kids ignorant and their empty little heads filled with garbage - because that inevitably leads to control and power by a big government.

If these kids had any real education, they would know the history: that Socialism inevitably led to Communism, which led to Fascism, throughout history. That this ideology has been responsible for more human suffering, torture, imprisonment, murder, and genocide than any other ideology in history (The idea - popular amongst the self-styled liberal intellectual crowd in every generation, yawwwwn, that it was Christianity, or "all religion" - a bigoted Marxist mantra since the late19th century! - that holds that honor, is demonstrably a factual fallacy.).  If these well-meaning children knew history as well as they should by their early twenties, they would know that they are terribly used by a radically liberal political agenda, and stop allowing themselves to be made fools of. Because . . . many of us are still on this earth who remember it first hand: the horror that was real fascism, real socialism. 

I lived in a tame socialistic country in my own youth. Do you know what that time away from the freedom of American life taught me?  That socialism murders the individual. It stifles creativity. It makes things like entrepreneurship and innovation so difficult by its inherent economics that people give up on dreaming and innovating and achieving great heights. (Is it any wonder why the USA has led in innovation in so many areas?  It was free thought and free trade and economics that drove this!)

And here is the ultimate lesson: Socialism ultimately goes down a very familiar path. First, freedom of expression is stifled. Next, education becomes controlled by the government, and by its own favored ideological point of view. At some point, those who resist - those who stubbornly cling to the idea that the individual has the right to certain freedoms, including the free exchange of ideas - are criminally dealt with. These things are already beginning in Europe - where freedoms of the citizens are being stripped under the stress of immigration and failing economies, in Canada - where "hate speech", that is speech which disagrees with the politically correct point of view, is criminally prosecuted, and in the USA - where our own government contemplates punishing citizens for thoughts and where university campuses allow student thugs to shut down free speech.
Think I'm crazy? He is another demonstrable fact. Brigitte Gabriel, Ben Shapiro, Robert Spencer, Donald Trump, and many others. What do these people have in common?  They were all threatened and/or some students attempted to disrupt or stop their ability to share their ideas with other people who had come to hear them speak, all in the past year. And . . . they are all conservatives. Exclusively. These incidents are increasing. These are all - ALL - perpetuated by an elitist, leftist, self-righteous, self-congratulatory mob that points its collective finger at conservative speakers and calls them names . . . "racist", "bigot", "hater".  

Ironic. 

And so . . . it begins. Do you grasp the enormity of these things?  The Russians, and later the Poles, the Czechs, the Slavs, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, the Ukrainians, the Romanians, the Germans, and others . . . all ignored the signs of rising Fascism. As the socialist movement rose, they told themselves it was all in the best interest of progressiveness, of justice, of humanity, and they went about their business and told themselves it would all be all right. But it would not be all right. Not at all. 

Socialism is a virus. It infects and destroys society. It wounds the human spirit. It steals freedom. It is the BFF of censorship of free discourse. Look around you. Look what is happening in the West. Look at what happened in Chicago tonight.

What are we going to do now?  

What are we going to do?  

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Read an excellent first-hand account of the Chicago rally riot by someone who was there.









Tuesday, March 1, 2016

If Trump Trumps Them All . . .

Whatever your political affiliation, if you have any interest in politics at all, you must be having as much fun as I am watching this year's election process unfold. From the British Parliament taking time to debate the issue of banning Donald Trump from the country for using offensive language so that no one in Britain will be exposed to offensive language, to Bernie's Einstein hairdo and his supporters' blindness to the real meaning of "socialist" (no it isn't another word for "humanist", "philanthropist" or "social worker"), to Hillary's being investigated by the FBI even as we all revisit her husband's White House Philanderer years (horrors!), to having to admit to oneself that the best thing going on reality TV is the GOP debates (sorry, Bachelor) . . . this is the most entertaining, craziest election in my lifetime of over half a century of presidential elections.

I have been registered as an Independent for quite a while, minus a few years' stint as a Libertarian. The far Left scares me and the far Right makes me roll my eyes. Neither appeals to my common sense or my morality, so I'm a renegade. Like most people, I voted ultra-liberal in my college years, came to my senses by my thirties, and tend to be more conservative as I age. Much of the conservative platform I can't support, and the liberal is just too nonsensical. But in the end, I do try to vote in such a way that it will matter. So this year, I'm watching all candidates closely and I can't wait for the dust to settle in early November.

As the person amongst my friends and family who is arguably the best-informed and up-to-date on current issues, I get about five texts a day asking who I like in this election and why.  Today I got a barrage of questions about the latest Trumpisode. Which isn't unusual: the man does know how to keep the presses rolling.  After listening to myself repeat the same things all day, I thought I'd put them down here for you all, in case a few of you are interested. You might be surprised at what I have to say about The Donald.

The biggest question I am getting is: If Trump gets the nomination, aren't you scared?

My answer: Not a bit. Oh, I can't stand the sight of him. Like many, I cringe when he puts his foot in his mouth. But . . .

I am not personally supporting his nomination, just for the record. There are two others I like better. A lot better. And let me just say that this year - as entertaining as it may be - is crucial. We must get it right, because I agree with so many on both sides that the last seven years got it terribly wrong. It is no laughing matter, really. But at the same time, I'm only one person: I have a healthy sense of what I can affect and what I can't.

But let's talk about the elephant in the room: Trump.  What do I think about him, as his campaign screams along like a freight train toward the nomination?

Unlike many people, I was a bit addicted to his reality show, The Apprentice, when he was on it. For probably four seasons, I watched religiously.  I found it really fascinating to watch the minds of highly-driven people, entrepreneurs by their wiring, battling it out. I learned something about business, but I learned even more about the qualities some successful people have: never quit; if Plan A fails, switch to B seamlessly; be a great team player, and get rid of those that hurt the team.

Here is what surprised me most about the show:  Trump is a terribly impressive man. I had expected
to dislike him. After all, I don't like his history with women; I don't like the bombastic personality, or arrogance. I don't, in general, like people too full of themselves.  But during the course of watching the show, I came to see something unexpected: it's all an act.  Through four seasons, he surprised me, time and time again.

So here, in a nutshell, is what I think of Trump:


  • He's smarter than people realize.  I think he often puts his foot in his mouth because he hasn't learned to think an opinion through before spouting it. That can make him appear stupid. But it isn't stupidity, it's bad judgment. His raw intelligence always struck me when I watched The Apprentice
  • He's ethical and fair-minded.  These qualities were very apparent in the show. He never fired someone unjustly. He was not intentionally cruel - although he could be terribly blunt, it was always about business, it wasn't personal. He has a certain kindness, even in dealing with difficult people. 
  • He doesn't play favorites between men and women.  I had expected him to talk down to the "ladies", to either treat them with kid gloves or be so demanding they couldn't compete fairly. Neither happened. He expects the women to be just as tough, and often pointed out to the men the strengths of a particular female competitor. 
  • He has amazing kids.  This is a man who has raised incredible children; all are adults, and all adore him. That says something. Even his daughter from his briefer marriage to Marla Maples, is assisting in the campaign and worships the man, even though he wasn't present a lot during her childhood.  During The Apprentice, he was often assisted by his younger son and his daughter, and both are very impressive people:  savvy, articulate, intelligent, classy, always polite and patient, and great business people in their own right. 
  • He is well-liked by impressive people who actually know him.  His wide circle of long-time friends have come out to speak about him, and many of them are successful, respected people.  Each one of them emphasizes his generosity, his morality, his intelligence. Each of them speaks of him as an honest, good-hearted man who occasionally speaks before he thinks. Each of them says he isn't in bed with the political elite, or the mafia, or any other group.  Each of them says he would make a fantastic president. How can so many people of that quality be wrong? 
  • He is quietly generous.  As his friends have begun to speak up, stories have come to light of the things he has done through the years for people who could give him nothing.  He is the type of wealthy man who, upon hearing about the plight of a person down on their luck, quietly gives financial support without being asked. He has been generous with veterans, both in terms of individuals and organizations; he has been generous with homeless.  Early in the campaign, a story was raised by another candidate about Trump using imminent domain to take an elderly woman's house: actually not the entire truth. Trump offered her a ridiculously high price for the house, and the land was slated to be taken anyway.  He did nothing illegal, nothing out of line with other businesses.  
  • He tends to surround himself with capable people.  This is important: a more arrogant man
    surrounds himself with people he can manipulate. Trump hasn't seemed to do that in his business life; rather, he sought out people who knew more than he did, and then gave them a task. He knows how to hire the best, then stand back and let them do their job. Again, arrogant men don't operate like that.  In terms of governing, I would think he would be one to find people who are experts and let them teach him.  That's a great quality in a leader. 
  • He has an uncanny ability to ignore the chaos of the forest and pick out the diseased tree.  This is exactly why thousands are showing up to his rallies. He tells the truth as he sees it, ignoring the self-strangling politically correct screech that has held this society hostage since Obama took office. 
  • He can be immature and mean.  This is an unattractive quality in a candidate and in a person. It happens when his thin skin gets nicked and his short fuse lights.  It is something he seems to be learning to censor, but he needs to learn faster.  It makes him appear to be a loose cannon; after all he can't be popping off to just anyone on an international stage - he needs to learn to marry that strong will with common sense and good judgment. I hope he can do it. 
  • He is good-hearted.  I don't think he is racist, or a misogynist. I think he is practical, less than diplomatic, and sometimes is so blunt that people aren't hearing what he is really saying. It makes me cringe, both because I hate to hear it from anyone, and because coming from a man
    who is shooting himself in the foot with it, it hurts. 
  • Trump will support minorites, the LGBT community, etc.  These issues are important to me. I don't believe the hype from the far Left that conservatives are all racists - I know that is nonsense. A few are. Not a few liberals are too.  I think when it comes down to it, Trump is pretty much color-blind. I think he will think in terms of equity and fairness without allowing the Left to hijack the narrative and take it to a ridiculous place of non-fairness.  I think he supports the gay community unconditionally.
  • Like great leaders, he is flexible.  I think he makes mistakes now, but will learn as he goes. This is not someone who has had years to learn the ropes of political science. He's an outside, which is exactly the point.  The danger would be a know-it-all; that isn't what we have here. He seems to be less concerned with pleasing everyone than with speaking his own mind and truth as he sees it. Refreshing in a "politician". We have a guy who seems to adjust his view as he goes in order to win - the quality of a stellar businessman - the quality of a great leader.  This is why he can win both sides of the aisle. He is being driven by common sense, not misplaced blind loyalty to some unworkable ideology that the constituents do not relate to.
  • He is weird when it comes to women, BUT . . .  You know, I don't like his history with women. I don't like the images he has promoted as the former owner of the Miss America pageant. I don't like the way he has talked about women, focusing obsessively on their looks rather than their actual capabilities. I don't like the way he went after Megyn Kelly because she dared challenge his treatment of women - in a way I suspect he would not have dared to if she were a male journalist.  I don't like his smarmy pokes at Carly Fiorina's looks. But I can't explain - if he is truly a misogynist, why did he marry such intelligent, capable women? Why is his daughter so incredibly capable, articulate, classy - never hiding her intelligence for the convenience of men around her. It doesn't compute. A man who dislikes women doesn't raise such a daughter or marry strong-minded, talented women.  I do believe that he is a bit conflicted, and a bit of an ass when it comes to women - but I can't give myself a reason why that should matter so much in a president at this point, in this year. Other issues are enormous.  
As you watch the process, I would - humbly - advise you not to panic. Trump may be the best thing in the end - for the conservatives, because they will have to finally get a grip and look at the real world; and for the liberals, because Trump won't deal in pie-in-the-sky narratives that aren't based in reality. His deep streak of common sense will trump anything.

And I would caution you to take all the pointing fingers with a big grain of salt. I've taken time to research the accusations others level at Trump, in their zeal to bring him down. Every one has turned out to be ... well, less that accurate.  Remember that both the far Left and the far Right don't want him in the way.  The Left may be afraid of the momentum behind his popularity; the Right is worse, as they see the empire that years of cronyism has built start to crumble as Trump preaches to the dissatisfied conservative masses. That is a very frightening thing for people who have their livelihoods and years of their lives built upon power.  

I am sick of some conservatives defining the movement for us all. By the looks of Trump's numbers, it would seem many - from independents to evangelicals, from immigrants to Democrats, from students to retirees, are good and sick of the establishment too. The degree of hate displayed by the Right has to be motivated by fear, of having their throne toppled and broken into irretrievable pieces. What they don't realize - those elite running the show - is that none of us are interested in picking the pieces up anymore so that they can stay in power and keep deceiving us.

Some say that Trump can't beat a Democratic candidate because he has too many secrets and garbage in his past. I notice that most saying that are staunch conservatives, invested in the status quo. They said the same thing about Reagan, by the way. Others say that he is the one who can beat Hillary - I don't think that is necessarily true, but I can't see any reason why he couldn't - we have evidence of many Dems defecting to Trump now, and more will during the general election. (Think about it - that would be a nightmare for the conservative elite, even as Trump is cleaning up the economy and creating jobs for thousands of liberals!) He certainly is likely to show no hesitation in going after Hillary with guns blazing, and she has plenty to hide herself, in addition to the Clinton cesspool that is already becoming more public daily. 

Whatever happens in the end, Donald Trump has been a godsend to America. He has stimulated a movement where people are tuning in to debates in record numbers, and going out to vote primaries in record numbers. Politics are studied and discussed as they haven't been in decades. People who long ago felt disenfranchised by the process and lost interest, suddenly are involved again. People have begun to think outside the lines that seemed so permanent for so long. And best of all - those who have run both major parties for so long are running scared, because this "crazy man" has risen in this fight to make a fool of all of them.