Cancel my Subscription to 2021

Lately I have begun watching old episodes of a very popular TV series that aired from 1952 to 1961:  This is Your Life.  In an era of live television, this was the show to watch because right at the beginning producer/host Ralph Edwards surprised the person whose life was to be told and no one could be sure how that person would react. 

“This is Your Life” (“TYL”) and “Candid Camera” were television’s earliest reality TV shows in capturing live events of people being surprised.

I am enthralled with everything about “TYL.”  From the sincerity of Edwards to the amazing stories of its honorees.   From a sociology standpoint, it is also curious to observe how people used to interact with one another unscripted.  As a former school mate or early mentor would appear on stage to talk about the honoree, the language used and the enthusiasm of the handshake or hug seem so remote from our society today—polite, respectful, truthful.

Even the audience is well-mannered and well-dressed.

While I was but a baby when “TYL” went off the air in its first run (years later a revamped version aired that was not live or as captivating), I recall watching reruns years ago.

But recently I began watching them again on YouTube.  I was trying to figure out why was I doing this?  Is this a sign that my retirement is failing? 

And then on Jan. 6 it hit me.  Watching another live TV event, this time an angry mob rioting the U.S. Capitol Building, the one government building that represents democracy throughout the world, the one that the 9/11 terrorists wanted to destroy with the plane where passengers rushed the perpetrators sending it crashing in a field in Pennsylvania, I was shaken.  Just what the hell has happened to our country?

In absorbing myself in the 1950’s, I’m trying to pretend that I am living in another time period.  Any time period other than now.

Yes, the 1950’s had its own scary issues, from segregation to the threat of nuclear war.  But human qualities like decency and consideration for others were mainstays for most people. 

That hasn’t been true for a while now.

Each morning I take a walk around my neighborhood with my mask on.  On average, I pass about a dozen people, some walking a dog, a few jogging.  Maybe three of them have on a mask.

This is the way it was months ago before the most recent surge that began in mid-December, and nearly 4 weeks later, nothing has changed even though the Los Angeles area is displayed on maps in a deep fireman red coloring to denote high cases of COVID-19.

I also observe drivers and bicyclists not obeying speed laws or stop signs.  I walk by 14 four-way stop intersections on my route and rarely see a driver make even a California stop.  Most slow down a little then accelerate through.  A few drivers blow right through them as if they had a green light.  God forbid a parent with a stroller or a child on a bike is not in their pathway for it would result in severe injury or death.

People no longer feel legally or even morally obligated to stop at a stop sign or wear a small mask over the lower half to protect fellow human beings.

Every day I think about this when I am supposed to be focused on enhancing my mental and physical health.

In one hour I see a microcosm of selfish human behavior that when inflamed to a high temperature erupts into domestic terrorism.

Why do I seem to be in the minority of people who feel an obligation to do the right thing?

It’s almost as if many people were not brought up right.   They lack strong parenting that should have established a foundation of knowing right from wrong, a foundation of values and morals.  They lack a Golden Rule education of consideration for others, respecting those unlike themselves.  People used to learn how to be decent from their parents or their religious upbringing; now, many are brought up on social media.

Going back to that driver who purposely chooses not to obey a stop sign.  Why does he misbehave?   He feels the chances of a police officer catching him breaking the law is miniscule.  But what about the law of morality?  There is no conscience in this person, no little voice begging them to do the right thing.  Whether you believe in a heaven or hell, or some kind of after-life reckoning, for those who are self-absorbed without being brought up correctly, our society will continue to devolve.

Too many bad people get away with bad behavior.  A society without consequences is no longer a society.  Chaos takes over.

Decency must come from within each one of us.  You can’t legislate a law about it.

Without decency we are no longer human, just animals like the ones who stormed the Capitol.

Today, Americans can hardly come together about anything, even when it comes to a global health crisis.  But once they stop accepting the definition of what it means to be an American, the United States will no longer survive.

Being an American means respecting others, believing in equality for all.  It also means welcoming immigrants for that is the story of America.

When I grew up, I believed in the American story because it was my parents’ and grandparents’ American story.   They came to the United States not to get better jobs but to not be killed in their homelands.

Millions of Americans no longer believe in this story anymore.  Immigrants are viewed as ugly foreigners.  Forget the adage of loving thy neighbor.

Look at what President Kennedy said at his inauguration 60 years ago, “Ask now what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  Citizens believed in that sentiment once.  Today, the reverse is true.

One of the few benefits of being my age is knowing that not that far in the future, I will die and won’t witness more decline in civilization.

I thank God that I had loving parents who brought me and my siblings up the right way.  I’m thankful that I am the way I am and wish more people were decent.

I will try to remind myself of the better parts of people each day despite seeing firsthand evidence to the contrary so that their indecency doesn’t erode mine.

Hope of 2021, One Person at a Time

Hope springs eternal—so goes the cliché—but truer than ever as we finally reach the finish line of 2020.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2021.  The Covid-19 vaccines will be widely available.   It seems that by the time June arrives, we should have a better idea of how much of the pandemic is behind us.  It may seem like a long stretch, but we have already survived 9 and a half months of dealing with this contagious virus; another 5 and a half months is doable.

Let’s hope that many of those who lost jobs will return to full employment.

Let’s hope that restaurants will soon reopen, at least outside, as well as gyms and other businesses.  Could people return to sports and concert venues by the end of the year?

Think about how special next holiday season will be to celebrate with families in person.

One thing the pandemic shutdown has done is given each one of us the time to look inside ourselves and see what type of people we are.   Some can see more gracious and generous spirits, while others may have doubts on their ability to show selfless concern for their neighbors.  Unfortunately, it is during trying times when both the best and worst qualities in humans are on display.

I highly recommend the new Pixar film “Soul.”  Inadvertently, it speaks to the times in which we are living.  Its theme revolves around the meaning and purpose of life, quite ambitious for a cartoon.  Kids won’t get it, but adults will.  Maybe some will even learn from its moral.

A new year always offers people the possibilities of improving themselves.  Losing weight and exercising more are typical resolutions made.   More importantly would be for each of us to wake up each day and think how we can make not just us but others around us better in our families and our communities.  

There was a time back in the 1960’s when songs like “Let There Be Peace on Earth” were sung on TV variety shows often by a children’s choir composed of all ethnicities.  When I was younger and heard that song, I dismissed it as pollyannish and contrived.  Now that I am much older, the song resonates as a simple yet doable anecdote to the divisiveness in our country which is a worse contagion than the coronavirus.

If there were more people doing as the song says that for there to be peace “let it begin with me,” then as a nation we would be pointed in a brighter direction.  Instead of waiting for others to be nicer and kinder, how about each of us polishing those human traits?  Corny?  Perhaps.  But what a wonderful world if those things became contagious.

America the . . . what?

Every holiday season, I look forward to re-watching some of my favorite Christmas shows.  While the enjoyment comes from feeling nostalgic about my childhood, today I find myself trying to relive the feelings I had about the United States and my fellow Americans.  I feel sadness that the place I call home is not recognizable anymore.  This country seems foreign to me now.

I watch 1962’s “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and wonder about my favorite song in the show, “The Lord’s Bright Blessing,” and think to myself how in today’s times such a song would never be written today.  Too religious.

How about the climax in 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus tells the story of Jesus so Charlie Brown knows the true meaning of the holiday?  Even back then “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz had to fight the producers to keep that scene intact.

“Home Alone” (1990) has a tender scene in a church where the boy character Kevin meets his neighbor Old Man Marley in a church to have a heart-to-heart about family.  Would this make the final cut 30 years later?

One shutters to think that one day the most famous line uttered by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, everyone” may not be saved.  Will the g-word become the new n-word?

No, this isn’t another one of those War on Christmas columns.  It’s more about how Christmas time is one battle in the War on America.

Though I am not Christian, my parents brought us three kids up to believe in the dream of America.  As first-generation Americans from their families which immigrated to this country, it wasn’t enough for my grandparents to get to the shores of New York City.   They wanted to be a part of America, not apart from it. 

As one of the few Jewish kids in school I didn’t feel insulted or disrespected whenever we had to learn carols like “The First Noel” for the holiday program.  It wasn’t about religion for us; it was about America which is why we grew up loving Christmas.

That’s called assimilation.  And without it, each of us recedes onto an island with our own kind.  It is one of several reasons why our country is so split these days.

Too many citizens identify themselves first by their ethnicity, not by their country.  Saying “I’m American” used to be a special declaration.  It meant that we live in the only nation on earth where all kinds of people are welcome and have a chance to be treated equally; a noble experiment going on 250 years that still hasn’t reached its goal, but has made strides towards it.

No one seems interested anymore in reaching out to fellow citizens unlike themselves and finding common interests. Instead we stand our ground that only our rights matter.  The wearing of masks controversy symbolizes such selfishness.  “No one tells me what to do” is a mentality that is un-American.  Goodness, decency and values have been buried as relics from the past.

I find it sad that generations of people alive today never experienced the America I knew.  I don’t pretend to look at my past with rose-colored glasses.   There were lots of problems in the 1960’s as well.   Much has improved during my lifetime.  But the stuff that is disappearing is eroding this country’s definition.

As a father I have done my best to raise respectful young men.  As a teacher I taught students to be respectful to those unlike themselves.

But as I look around, I see less evidence that other parents and teachers are doing their work in raising young people to believe in morals which is instilling a belief in democracy and this country.

It is like I am living in a real “Planet of the Apes” twist ending where I’m walking along Santa Monica beach and come across the crowned head of Miss Liberty submerged in the sand.  This is America?

4:30 a.m. Wake-up: A Sign of Our Times

A green-colored glowing 4:30 a.m. is the first image I see nearly every morning.  No matter how hard I try to close my eyes and not open them, my mind continues to turn its gears. The harder I try not to wake up, the more my mind fights this by accelerating its pistons.  Ultimately, one to two hours later, I can’t stand it and give up and get up out of bed.

Articles have been written about people who have a similar sleep disorder during the pandemic, called Covid-somnia or coronasomnia.

The year 2020 is almost over, and thank goodness.  If you live in Los Angeles, the Lakers and Dodgers each winning a World Championship in October, the first time that has happened since 1988, were two bright spots in a year that will otherwise forever go into the history books as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Congratulations—we are surviving a world health crisis.  This was a golden missed opportunity for people of all political persuasions to come together on a common goal:  diminishing the impact of the virus.  If we had the right president in office, a unifier not a divider, this would have been an enlightening moment for America.   While not as bad as the Great Depression or World War II, this was our crisis test to continue the American tradition of working together for the common good of our neighbors.

Thank God most of us do not have loved ones defending America around the world.  Limiting contact with friend and family to Zoom sessions should not have been that big of a sacrifice.

Sadly, we failed the test.  If people can’t agree on science, then conflict separates us.  Wearing masks, staying at home, limiting social contact were traits on a resume to see if you were Pro-Trump or anti-Trump.

The new surge in Covid cases across the country combined with a President who does not want to leave office continues playing havoc with people’s sleeping habits.

No wonder I keep waking up at 4:00 a.m. each day.  From mid-March to mid-November, 8 straight months and counting, has been the most anxious continuous length of time most of us have ever lived through.  And it will likely be another 8 months before the majority of Americans receive a vaccination.

If you are waiting for normal to return, best to wait it out until 2022 which is less than 14 months away.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself overeating and not sleeping well.  Even the holidays are dripping with anxiety.  Families unable to be together, arguments in families between those who fear the virus and those who ignore it, masks vs. no masks is enough unpleasantness to kill the Christmas spirit.

Besides sports, during this year I have found solace in comedy.  My wife and I discovered “Schitt’s Creek,” the best family sitcom since “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  What makes the show so appealing is its perfect casting from the stars to the supporting cast.  What makes the show memorable is that it treats a family with a gay son as nothing special.  The show is not about messaging about homosexuality.  Its only message is about the love between parents and children.

The other thing I find calming is watching old Huell Howser episodes.  I just finished the one he did in 2005 on Oak Glen with all the apple orchards.  I still can’t believe he died in 2013 at age 67.  He was such a genuine loving human being, with the curiosity of a child and the heart of a saint.  Not a phony bone in his body.

It didn’t matter if he was visiting an old oak tree or an old man with an elephant as a best friend, his ingratiating personality always reacting with a genuine “wow” at discovering something is a salve for today’s times when it seems Americans are fighting other Americans.

It is also something of a curiosity to see how life used to be not that long ago when people shook hands with one another and stood a foot not six feet apart.  In one episode at Oak Glen apple orchards, customers were encouraged to use the their bare hands in sampling free apple slices from paper bowls.  No social distancing, no washing of hands, no masks.  A farmer with his bare hand used a knife, cut off a hunk, and handed it to Huell who ate it and . . . lived without getting sick.

And every person Huell interviewed was decent and nice, something that is missing in so much of our lives these days.

I am worried about the future of our country and world.  There is little connective tissue that we share anymore.

For so long, Americans shared common experiences.  We now live in a time when each person can create his own world.   Some may like this, that they can tailor their music, social media, TV content to their own taste.  But when each person lives in a bubble when it comes to facts, science, and only feeds themselves political views that they have, they can easily vilify those with different views. 

History has plenty of examples where once people look at other people as unequal, we are only a small step away from causing harm to the “others.”  History is full of these stories.  They are called genocides.

Once people like me die off who lived through better times for America, younger people who didn’t grow up that way won’t even recognize the loss.  I’m glad I won’t be around to see what that America will be like.

And that’s why I see “4:30” each and every morning.

Of Squeaky Mice and Little Men

The Burbank Unified School District has taken the anti-education stance to halt the teaching of the following classic books due to their perceived racism: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Cay,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” (Newbery Medal), and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Pulitzer Prize).  Interestingly, “Roll of Thunder” is written by a black author.

I wonder if the BUSD superintendent and the five-member school board have actually read any of these books?

I taught “Mockingbird” and “Mice and Men” for most of my 31-year career as a high school English teacher; these books were often the favorites of my students.  In “Mice and Men,” the wisest person in the whole book is Crooks, the sole African American character.   In “Mockingbird,” Tom Robinson is found guilty by an all-white jury then shot 17 times by the police.  I have seen students cry over the death of Tom.

The texts, part of a unit I called Dislike of the Unlike, teach anti-racism, decency and empathy. 

Since African-Americans make up a small percentage of Burbank’s population, it is all the more reason to mandate that these literary treasures remain as teaching tools for educators. 

For BUSD to empower four parents to alter the education of 15,200 students is short of astonishing.  This reminds me of all the times district officials would listen to a select few squeaky wheel parents and not to their professional teaching staff.

Did any one of them take the time to speak with their English teachers about this matter before pulling the plug on these books?

BUSD is not even following their own policy that “challenged material may remain in use until a final decision has been reached.”

English teachers are the most knowledgeable people on how to effectively use these books, not the parents.  They are the in-the-trench heroes who are trying to make a difference, teaching young people how to live peacefully in a diverse country that is too quick to pounce (think cancel culture) not pause when an uncomfortable moment arises.  We used to call that “a teachable moment.”

I hope the BUSD school board comes to their senses and doesn’t turn Burbank into one of those communities which starts censoring literature that has stood the test of time.  What a black eye that would be.  The city and its children deserve better than this.

Closet Cemetery

There is a graveyard in my bedroom.

I know it is Halloween time, but this is no decoration.

Hanging in my closet and folded in my dresser drawers are the clothes I used to wear every day.

When I retired in June, I figured that my sport jackets, ties, dress shirts, slacks and shoes would be put to less use.

Combined with the pandemic’s shutdown, I have had even fewer opportunities to dress up with nice restaurants closed.

One of the things I miss about not working is getting dressed for my job mainly because I got dressed up.  I enjoyed choosing which tie to wear with each shirt, which socks with each pair of shoes.

The majority of people don’t dress up anymore, and now with the economic shutdown forcing people to work from home, t-shirts and yoga pants have become standard work wear.

Where I worked, I was a walking anachronism.  In 31 years, I can count on one hand how many male teachers I saw regularly wearing any form of dress-up clothing:  a tie, a jacket, a dress shirt, long pants, shoes with a heel.  It was common to see men wearing shorts and sandals.  As Judge Judy would admonish, “Where did you think you were going today—the beach?”

In recent years, not even the male administrators dressed properly.  If it weren’t for the gray hair and facial wrinkles, they could have been mistaken for students in their hoodies get-up.  I’m sure when they passed by me, they thought, “Who does he think he is?”

What I thought I was was an educator, a role model for young people.  Dressing formally meant that teaching was a serious profession just like medicine and law.

It’s time for Dodger anxiety!

I cannot remember when I first became a Dodger fan because I was too young to remember such a thing.  I simply grew up loving the Dodgers through the decades as a boy during the 1960’s. 

Some of my all-time favorite Dodgers include:   Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Ron Fairly, Wes Parker, Willie Davis, Don Sutton, Jim Brewer, Steve Garvey, Claude Osteen, Davey Lopes, Tommy John, Reggie Smith, Manny Mota, Al Downing, Dusty Baker, Orel Hershiser, Pedro Guerrero, Mike Scioscia, Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Yeager, Rick Monday, Kirk Gibson, Mike Piazza, Bob Welch, Eric Karros, Brett Butler, Paul Mondesi, Ramon Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Hideo Nomo, Shawn Green, Jeff Kent, Chan Ho Park, Eric Gagne, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Adrian Gonzalez, Manny Ramirez, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Zach Greinke, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Mookie Betts.

My favorite Dodger of all time, of course, is Vin Scully.

As of this writing, the Dodgers will be playing in their 21st World Series, third in the last four years.  In their history, they have won 6 titles out of 20—a 30% winning percentage.

Here are the top all-time World Series champions in baseball.  The first number is titles won over the total trips with the winning percentage.

Yankees:  27/40, 67.5%

Cardinals:  11/19, 61%

Red Sox:  9/13, 69%

Athletics:  9/14, 64%

Giants:  8/20, 40%

Dodgers: 6/20, 30%

If you are a lifetime Dodger fan, then you know a lifetime of heartache.  The Dodgers have lost the World Series more times, 14, than any other ball club in history.  That is why it is tough to root for them when they make it that far.  Imagine if you are a Yankee, Cardinal, Red Sox or Athletic fan:  about two-thirds of the time those teams win it all.

What’s extra frustrating about the current group of Dodgers is that they have won 8 straight division titles, second only to the 14 straight won by the Atlanta Braves.  However, the Braves did win one title; the Dodgers nada.

The Dodgers should have won the title in 2017 against the Astros since everyone now knows they cheated; even with that dishonest advantage, the Dodgers pushed them to seven games.

In 2018, most people viewed the Boston Red Sox as the superior team so, no surprise, they lost that series 4-1.

This year, however, most pundits favor the Dodgers to win it all.  Imagine how heartbreaking it would be for them if they don’t. If baseball gods exist, L.A. will win its first championship in 32 years.

Back in 1988, I was studying to become a teacher.  Both the Lakers and Dodgers won championships that year.

This past June, I retired after 31 years.  From 1989 to 2019, the Lakers won 6 championships; the Dodgers not a one.

Laker fans know how long it felt before they won a title, longer than the actual 10 years it took.  Dodger fans have been waiting three times as long for the drought to end.

And that is why whenever there is a Dodger playoff game day, I get the DPA’s:  Dodger Playoff Anxiety.  My mind obsesses about DODGER BASEBALL.  I can’t keep focused on anything.

I read all the stories online, hear all the sports talk shows on the radio, watch the pre-game show on the Dodger cable channel.

And when they start playing ball, I will go from watching it on TV to hearing it on the radio depending upon what is happening on the field.

For example, in last Sunday’s Game Seven against the Atlanta Braves for the pennant, in the later innings, I hid in my bedroom with the radio on when the Braves were batting, then come out to the living room to watch the Dodgers bat.

When the situation is extremely intense, I can’t be still so I drive aimlessly. listening to the game on the radio.

Everyone has a Kirk Gibson story where they were when he hit his famous home run to win Game One against the A’s in 1988.  Here is mine.  I was in my car driving west on the 134 Freeway going from Pasadena to Glendale.  I heard Don Drysdale’s call, not Vin Scully’s or Jack Buck’s.  And, if you have never heard it, do yourself a favor and listen to it:

It will put goosebumps on your arms.

So, Dodger fans, keep your fingers crossed, light some candles and keep your radios handy.

Go Dodgers!

Seven-Day Horror-cast

There’s nothing more depressing than the seven-day weather forecast.  Do you look at it often?

I keep fooling myself that I will look at it and see comfortable temperatures in the horizon.  Maybe it won’t be 90 in 2 days or 4 days from now.

I’m always disappointed when the coolest day forecast keeps getting pushed back to 10 days or 14 days from now.

Anytime we are in the midst of a heatwave, why does it always seem that when meteorologists predict it will end, it ultimately continues two to three days longer than expected?  However, if the forecast is for cool temperatures or rain, those days never materialize.

Even though I have lived in the Los Angeles area all of my life, the San Fernando Valley to be exact, I have never enjoyed the heat.

We have three seasons.  The shortest one last 20 days.  That’s when the temperatures are below 70 degrees.  Then we have the middle one that lasts 160 days.  That’s when the temperature ranges between 75-85.  The longest season is, let’s call it, HOT, half the year where temperatures barely dip below 86, but often rage out of control like a California forest fire into the mid-90s and, more often in recent years, Death Valley-like triple digits past 110 degrees.

I read somewhere that we just lived through a six-month period of record high temperatures in 125 years.  Great.

Remember, there is no climate change to explain this.

Summer-like weather starts on July 1 and continues until Nov. 1—at least.

My favorite months of the year—November and December—have to do with 3 traits:  cooler weather, shorter days, and holidays.

Whenever there is a heat wave during those two months, I feel cheated.  There should be a law that no day reach 80 degrees or higher for those 61 days.  A few Thanksgivings ago we had a record 93 degrees.  That was awful.

You try to wear the few sweaters you have, you try to have some fires in the living room (if for no other reason than for atmosphere), but it doesn’t feel right when the thermostat in your house never dips below 72 degrees throughout the night.

Going to school in Burbank meant two things:  one, airplane noise would interfere with the lessons on a regular basis, and, two, when you returned to school in September there were bound to be days when the non-air conditioned schools would close early due to excessive heat.

Up until my late 30’s, I suffered the hot weather at home since I had no air conditioning.  But even when I’m home with the air conditioning on, the sweltering blast from outside still gets under my skin.  I feel lethargic, whereas when it’s 65 degrees outside, I feel invigorated.

I keep telling myself that one day I will move out of this area to a cooler climate, say, Santa Barbara, or Morro Bay.  However, it is difficult when you have family, friends and favorite restaurants to pack up your tent and leave it all behind. 

In the meantime, I’m going to ensconce myself watching “Holiday Inn” and sipping hot cocoa—all with the curtains drawn.

Prince Prospero AKA Donald J. Trump

One of the short stories I used to teach was Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”

Prince Prospero decides to hold a masquerade party in his castle high on a hill and away from the town which is experiencing a plague, the Red Death.   The Prince invites special wealthy guests to be safe in his abode and enjoy themselves while the paeans below them die mercilessly.  He locks the doors to ensure that the pestilence does not come in and harm him or his guests, similar an idea that building a wall will prevent illegal immigration.

So what happens at the party?

Everyone dies.

The morale of the story is that no one, not even the wealthiest denizens, are immune to disease.  One can’t lock one’s doors to the plague.  A virus does not know the bank account or pedigree of its hosts.  It’s just contagious.

And now we turn from 1842 when the story was published to present day where we have a President who does not believe the scientists or doctors.  He feels he is immune, above reproach from a disease, from dying even.  Just as he runs away from paying his fair share of federal income tax, he fools the American people not to do anything that could protect them from getting sick from the worst pandemic in 102 years.

Call it karma, schadenfreude, or a simple comeuppance, Trump has the coronavirus.  Is anyone surprised?  What is surprising is that it took this long for him to catch it. 

Just a few days earlier at the presidential debate, he mocked Joe Biden for wearing “the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”  For months he mocked Biden for being too old and feeble.  Well, who looks too old and feeble now?

What will be interesting to see is how Trump comes out of this episode.  Will he restart his anti-mask campaign?  Or will he admit he was wrong about Covid?

Don’t expect an epiphany from a family (all of them shunned masks at Tuesday’s debate even when a doctor in attendance was passing them out) who, like Prince Prospero, feel that they are better than us, richer, more privileged, who don’t have to contribute part of their earnings for the good of the country.  How can regular people feel good about that?

To quote another piece of literature, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Roman senator Caius Cassius is manipulating fellow senator Marcus Brutus to kill Caesar.  While faulting the leader for having physical maladies such as epilepsy or the falling sickness, he tells Brutus that “we have the falling sickness” when it comes to doing nothing to rid Rome of a dictator.

In a month, the people will have their once-every-four-year moment to decide not only the outcome of the election, but the direction of this tattered country.  It is in the hands of its citizens, just as the Founding Fathers wrote it in the Constitution.   The question from a 400-year-old play remains:  how many of us have the falling sickness?

Thank You Very Much, McConnell

“Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me.”

This song, written by Leslie Bricusse for the movie “Scrooge” (1970), is sung when Dickens’ character sees a vision from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come of the people who owe Scrooge money celebrating at the sight of his coffin.

A fictional scene, this was played out for real just this past week when the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and within hours U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that a new nominee for the high court would be voted on before the important November presidential election.

As a voter who is not affiliated with any political party, I wish to express my deepest disdain for McConnell and his ilk for not waiting until her body was cold—or at least until the first night of Rosh Hashanah concluded.

It is also hypocritical that back in 2016 when former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, 9 months ahead of that election, Republicans refused to hold hearings for a new nominee to fill his empty seat even though President Obama chose Merrick Garland, a judge who normally Republicans would have supported. 

With less than 7 weeks ahead of this year’s election, why the flip-flop?  Because their “guy” is in the Oval Office.  That is what the whole thing is about.  Politics.  Playground bullying done by old white men who are supposed to serve the American people no matter which party they belong to.

Unfortunately, Americans should not be surprised at the lack of civility in Washington, D.C.  I’m not sure when bipartisanship disappeared, but for those of you younger than 50, take a look at some YouTube videos of President Ronald Reagan.

Watch his self-deprecating humor at a 1984 debate with Democratic nominee Walter Mondale.  When running for re-election, Reagan’s age (73) was being used against him, and so he was asked to respond to the criticism.   He quipped, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”  

This generated a huge laugh even from Mondale.   When can you remember two politicians from different parties sharing a hearty laugh together like this in the past 40 years?

The acrimony that political leaders exhibit these days is reflected in the general population.  Again, YouTube has plenty of evidence showing regular folks acting very badly in public.

There is a feeling in America that people lack common ground, that differences far outweigh similarities.  Our neighbors have become strangers.

Here’s hoping sooner than later that this country finds its footing again, and that no matter one’s politics, ethnicity or Netflix preferences, we can stand together as a united nation.

Otherwise, Russia, China and other foes will be dancing on the coffin of the United States singing, “Thank you very much” to the Americans who helped its demise.