Gender Government History Personal Essays Politics Women

The Ginsburg Vacancy

I wrote this with my friend and author, Kathy Aspden. If you haven’t read her books, have a look. She is a great writer.

By Kathy Aspden & Christine Merser

In a speech in August 2016 in Kentucky, McConnell would say: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.”

Thirty-two Republicans put out positive statements in 2016 to support Merrick Garland’s nomination.

When McConnell stamped the it’s not happening on it all, Democrats came out full force— with words. Schumer called it a travesty, and others said the sitting president should fill the empty seat. But as in most things, Democrats had no tool in the tool box to change what Mitch chose to do. So many words, so many referenceable quotes from 2016.

Mitch broke the law. Or if you are generous and sit on the outside of liberal views, he ignored his responsibility to run hearings and put the process in place—which is his fiduciary obligation as majority leader. And so here we are, four years later, and McConnell is saying the court seat will be filled by this sitting president. Everything he said last time no longer fits into his agenda. Yet, he has no shame, no qualms, no fear in reversing what was a bad decision then.

So now, all the Dems will reverse what they said four years ago, and the Republicans will follow the pied piper of corruption and change their tone as well. Lindsay Graham is interesting. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he actually brought up this scenario in 2018 during a forum with The Atlantic, and said, “I’ll tell you this – this may make you feel better, but I really don’t care – if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.” All lies.

But this is not the time to call our people to the streets. This election will be decided by those who are already hesitating to put their toe in our waters—fearing it might look okay, but perhaps it’s boiling after all. Law and order, as an issue, is not working well for Trump, and a full-out protest will give legs and fuel the fire. And, then there is the hypocrisy of every Democrat from 2016 changing their stand when it suits them in 2020. Do we sink to the basement level that the Republicans have renovated as the penthouse? No we do not! Not on our watch.

Let’s do this with intelligence and integrity. Let them nominate some half-qualified person. Fight it on the stage during the hearings, smartly. Ted Cruz (one of the Trump short-listers) as a Supreme? Make our day.

If we do this well, we will win this election—which takes precedence over everything else right now. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death could surely give Trump what he needs to change the course of a conversation that’s currently not working for him. Let’s kick the legs out from under his potential unrighteous fury.

Oh and later, when the senate is won and the presidency has a reasonable, capable, semi-honest working body (which we’ve come to realize is the best we can hope for in government), we can up the Supreme Court seats to eleven and wave at Mitch McConnell across the aisle.

Government Politics

Because of You

resized_99265-king-holiday-inaugura_segr_96-16666_t800During Obama’s first inauguration, he made one stop on his way to his seat. He stopped and hugged John Lewis . After he took the oath, on his way out, John Lewis went up to him with a blank piece of paper and a pen. He asked Obama to sign the paper. Obama wrote, “Because of you John. President Barack Obama”

His first signature as president. And, a recognition that he stood on the shoulders of men like John Lewis to get where he got. (Obama has said on numerous occasions that he stood on the shoulders of men like Martin Luther King and John Lewis.)
Because of you.

I have thought a lot about that moment since I read it yesterday. I have thought a lot about the words, ‘because of you.’ I think it’s worth a moment to ask ourselves what has happened in this world, or in our sphere of influence, ‘because of me.’

Silence means nothing will happen because of you. Negative comments about our president and those that enable him also mean nothing happens because of you. Actions we take, words we repeat, stories we tell, will build our ‘because of you’ legacy.
Will your ‘because of you’ build or destroy?

God I love the adrenaline rush I get inside when I see someone brilliantly taking down those that are my enemy in my country. A meme, a combination of words that cuts and devours. I feed off it. I know that it builds nothing – that moment of righteousness, and then forwarding it to create the same worthless ‘high’ for my likeminded friends. It’s a waste of time that could be better spent forwarding information about a great candidate running, or something that someone did that was building back that which we have allowed to be destroyed as part of the fiber of our country.

Because of Obama, and his oratory skills, and his amazing use of language, I have become a better person. Because of him. He reminds me whenever he speaks now, that there is no benefit in ripping things apart.

I will miss John Lewis and his rich history of taking actions that leave a legacy his future generations can hold in their hands with pride. I am grateful that I took a bit of yesterday and learned some things that I can use to emulate his fine example of how to be a great American.
I will strive moving forward to ask myself each night before I lay to rest what happened because of me today.

Government Movies & TV Politics

Corruptio Optimi Pessima

Corruptio optimi pessima-2“Corruptio optimi pessima. Corruption of the best is the worst.”

I’m a West Wing girl. I mean, I love The West Wing. I think it’s the finest show ever written for TV, bar none. I think Aaron Sorkin is a genius, and if I could have lunch with one person who is alive today, believe it or not, it would be him.

I love The West Wing because it has taught me more life lessons than anything I’ve ever watched. More than any piece of art. More than the movies. It’s The West Wing. I love that the characters are all flawed in many ways, yet spectacularly brilliant and caring in other ways. I love that we can forgive them their daily sins, the same way I would like my own to be forgiven. I love that they go in a room and say what they have to say and then leave. They never repeat themselves over and over again the way I do when I’m not watching.

Fourth of July is approaching, and I wanted to write something about my love of America, and about my realization that we are not living in the best period of our history. We are living in a dark time from which we may not recover. Benjamin Franklin said the government can’t work if everyone in government doesn’t respect one another. I think we can all agree that right now, no one on either side of the political aisle, in the men’s and ladies rooms, or in the parking lots of the Capitol respect one another. In fact, I believe that many of them have no self respect, either. And, truth? What’s that in the beltway?

So, what to write about my country on her fabulous birthday? A call to action for myself and the rest of us comes to mind. So of course I turn to The West Wing, Season 5, Episode 14, An Khe. Leo McGarry, The President’s Chief of Staff, is a Vietnam War veteran. He was shot down and saved by his friend O’Neill, who carried him through the jungles for three days until they were rescued. Leo is loyal to “the finest man I have ever called a friend.” His friend is now the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company that makes things the government uses to do bad things in other places. Specifically helicopters. Leo finds out that his friend has crossed to the dark side and bribed someone to get a contract. I have just made a long, fabulous story short. You get the picture. O’Neill has let Leo down and Leo is stunned.

Fast-forward to Leo alone in his office after his friend confesses. Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s version of “My Country Tis of Thee” starts to play in the background, and the president comes in to see if Leo is all right. Leo begins to cry and tells the story of that long ago day when his amazing friend saved his life in the jungle. Then he explains that others died attempting to rescue them. He says that he and the fallen CEO had an obligation to those who went before — those who died — to lead lives on honor and service that would make those men proud of them. And the President quietly says, “Corruptio optimi pessima — Corruption of the best is the worst.”

Corruption of the best is the worst. Corruptio optimi pessima. Never has this quote been more appropriate than this moment in time. Not just in the presidency but in all the halls of our government. All of them.

We all have an obligation to start checking our facts before we republish the propaganda that clogs our inboxes and our minds. We have an obligation to respect other points of view — and to ask for the data to back up those points of view. And if we are to honor those who gave up so much for our freedoms (and I do not include not wearing a mask as a right of citizenship), we must take action to ensure that every American can vote easily and have access to health care—and also that every American pays the taxes they are supposed to pay and works hard to better their lives and not just to get a free ride; these things and a host of others have gone by the wayside. We need to learn to take care of the environment, to understand the land the way those that were here first did. We are out of control as a nation, and this is a day on which we should take a moment away from fireworks and hot dogs and steaks and red, white, and blue linens, and commit to doing the right thing.

God Bless America.

Post Script:

The plot line about the defense contracting controversy is apparently based on a real life incident. A 2003 lease agreement of 100 Boeing K-767  tankers by the US Air Force led to the imprisonment of a Pentagon staffer and the forced resignation of Boeing CEO Phil Condit. The main opponent of the deal was Senator John McCain – from Arizone like the fictional Senator Hunt; in addition, Hunt has been presented on the show as a maverick who is amenable to bipartisan projects, not unlike Senator McCain. McCain, when informed about the West Wing episode, was amused.

Very little is revealed about the title of the episode – An Khe. The only reference to the name is in the opening scene, when Leo, as a Vietnam War fighter pilot, tells ground control that he is approaching An Khe. An Khe was an actual base camp in Vietnam during the war.

Government Politics

MacArthur Park & Cake Out in the Rain

Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh no!

The lyrics to “MacArthur Park” come to mind now as I realize that we left the cake out in the rain. We Americans treated our freedom, our success, and our ease of life without sheltering them, appreciating them, and it took so long to bake that perfect recipe that we can never get it back. Oh no.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 2.56.13 PMI always turn to music, or Aaron Sorkin’s body of work, when I can’t stand it anymore. I think we can all agree that “MacArthur Park” is one of the greatest songs ever written. “No, no,” to quote that literary genius Anna Wintour, “it’s not a question.” It is the perfect recipe of lyrics and notes, it’s long and meanders, and it is precisely what we need right now.

So I turned to one of my favorite renditions of it. David Letterman brought the largest orchestra ever into the theater that launched the Beatles in America, and he added to the mix the composer Jimmy Webb, and bassist Will Lee on vocals. If you haven’t seen it, click here. If you have seen it, check it out again — but this time, instead of paying attention to the camera’s focal point, which is mostly Will Lee, watch Jimmy Webb, who is playing the organ, and Paul Schaeffer, who’s playing the piano. Watch the passion with which they do what they do. Take note of the other musicians and their commitment to the performance. Notice how each of them focuses on what they’re contributing to create what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments in music and late-night television. I love the talent and passion with which they are giving their all to their craft. That is what we all need to do right now.

We must ignore the diversionary explosions of the world around us and do what we can to change things. We cannot let anyone else, let alone our government, take from us that which our forefathers built. Nope. Not on my watch. Not today. Let’s get to work, each of us within our own power.

Watching this video twice renewed me. It reminded me that while we left the cake out in the rain, we can bake another one simply by doing whatever’s in our power to put back together the pieces of our broken nation, our shattered souls, and our aching hearts. Yes, turn to music or Aaron Sorkin. It works every time.

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it

I will take my life into my hands
And I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes
And I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow like rivers through the sky
And after all the loves of my life
I’ll be thinking of you.

Government Politics

Memorial Day 2020

photo-1-300x225My stepfather was an Infantryman in the 11th Armored Division of the 3rd Army. We’re talking Patton’s army. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being injured in the Battle of the Bulge. He and I were not close (I say kindly), and while I knew he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, I never asked him about it. Like so many other missed moments, I’m so sorry I never did. My daughter Sarah did. And, she told me this story. I share it with you on Memorial Day with the hope it will move you to ask someone who has served our country to tell you their story before they are no longer able. Especially at this moment in time when we are all so vulnerable.

It was late on Christmas Eve, 1944, and George Ilse was lying on the ground with hundreds of others. He thought he was dying. I’m not sure what the injury was, but he was ‘tagged’ as not able to survive and left with whatever comfort they could give. He had a small compass with him that my daughter now has on a chain. He told her that his uncle gave him the compass for Christmas just before he was deployed. I have the Christmas Card that accompanied the gift and added it to this blog. It has the following message: To help you find your way home. Tom. According to George’s story, it had stopped working.

A man walked by, stopped, looked at him and said, “Are you George Ilse?” My stepfather said he was and it turned out to be a medic from George’s hometown. He knelt over George and worked on him. He saved his life. He told Sarah that he took the compass out of his pocket while the stars shone over the snow covered ground later that night so long ago, and it was working again. He told her in that moment he knew he’d make it home.

I’m sorry I never thanked you for your service George. I do it today, on Memorial Day, 2020, so many years after that cold Christmas night. And, if I meet another person who has served in the future, I will ask them about their service rather than simply thanking them.

Government History Politics

Stoicism in the Time of the CoronaVirus

Yesterday was a rough day for me. Not sure why. In general, this solitary-type of life is not something I find anxiety provoking, but I think that it was about reading three articles in a row that did me in. I now believe that it’s not just Trump that is breaking things, that the divide between the rich and the poor is now irreversibly cemented for a future of being relegated to where you were born and lastly, that the virus itself is taking a toll on those in the medical field that is heartbreaking. And, and, and.

Then I came across an article in The Guardian by Donald Robertsonimages that I have to read a few more times to know how it can replant my mental positivity, but I know it has something that can… Who knew Marcus Aurelius could help me through my funk? And the really good news is that I have The Meditations in my library! I think I bought it last year when I was pretending that I was going to be a smart girl.

Here is the article…

Stoicism in a time of pandemic: how Marcus Aurelius can help

The Meditations, by a Roman emperor who died in a plague named after him, has much to say about how to face fear, pain, anxiety and loss

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the last famous Stoic philosopher of antiquity. During the last 14 years of his life he faced one of the worst plagues in European history. The Antonine Plague, named after him, was probably caused by a strain of the smallpox virus. It’s estimated to have killed up to 5 million people, possibly including Marcus himself.

From AD166 to around AD180, repeated outbreaks occurred throughout the known world. Roman historians describe the legions being devastated, and entire towns and villages being depopulated and going to ruin. Rome itself was particularly badly affected, carts leaving the city each day piled high with dead bodies.

In the middle of this plague, Marcus wrote a book, known as The Meditations, which records the moral and psychological advice he gave himself at this time. He frequently applies Stoic philosophy to the challenges of coping with pain, illness, anxiety and loss. It’s no stretch of the imagination to view The Meditations as a manual for developing precisely the mental resilience skills required to cope with a pandemic.

First of all, because Stoics believe that our true good resides in our own character and actions, they would frequently remind themselves to distinguish between what’s “up to us” and what isn’t. Modern Stoics tend to call this “the dichotomy of control” and many people find this distinction alone helpful in alleviating stress. What happens to me is never directly under my control, never completely up to me, but my own thoughts and actions are – at least the voluntary ones. The pandemic isn’t really under my control but the way I behave in response to it is.

Much, if not all, of our thinking is also up to us. Hence, “It’s not events that upset us but rather our opinions about them.” More specifically, our judgment that something is really bad, awful or even catastrophic, causes our distress.

This is one of the basic psychological principles of Stoicism. It’s also the basic premise of modern cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the leading evidence-based form of psychotherapy. The pioneers of CBT, Albert Ellis and Aaron T Beck, both describe Stoicism as the philosophical inspiration for their approach. It’s not the virus that makes us afraid but rather our opinions about it. Nor is it the inconsiderate actions of others, those ignoring social distancing recommendations, that make us angry so much as our opinions about them.

Many people are struck, on reading The Meditations, by the fact that it opens with a chapter in which Marcus lists the qualities he most admires in other individuals, about 17 friends, members of his family and teachers. This is an extended example of one of the central practices of Stoicism.

Marcus likes to ask himself, “What virtue has nature given me to deal with this situation?” That naturally leads to the question: “How do other people cope with similar challenges?” Stoics reflect on character strengths such as wisdom, patience and self-discipline, which potentially make them more resilient in the face of adversity. They try to exemplify these virtues and bring them to bear on the challenges they face in daily life, during a crisis like the pandemic. They learn from how other people cope. Even historical figures or fictional characters can serve as role models.

With all of this in mind, it’s easier to understand another common slogan of Stoicism: fear does us more harm than the things of which we’re afraid. This applies to unhealthy emotions in general, which the Stoics term “passions” – from pathos, the source of our word “pathological”. It’s true, first of all, in a superficial sense. Even if you have a 99% chance, or more, of surviving the pandemic, worry and anxiety may be ruining your life and driving you crazy. In extreme cases some people may even take their own lives.

In that respect, it’s easy to see how fear can do us more harm than the things of which we’re afraid because it can impinge on our physical health and quality of life. However, this saying also has a deeper meaning for Stoics. The virus can only harm your body – the worst it can do is kill you. However, fear penetrates into the moral core of our being. It can destroy your humanity if you let it. For the Stoics that’s a fate worse than death.

Finally, during a pandemic, you may have to confront the risk, the possibility, of your own death. Since the day you were born, that’s always been on the cards. Most of us find it easier to bury our heads in the sand. Avoidance is the No1 most popular coping strategy in the world. We live in denial of the self-evident fact that we all die eventually. The Stoics believed that when we’re confronted with our own mortality, and grasp its implications, that can change our perspective on life quite dramatically. Any one of us could die at any moment. Life doesn’t go on forever.

We’re told this was what Marcus was thinking about on his deathbed. According to one historian, his circle of friends were distraught. Marcus calmly asked why they were weeping for him when, in fact, they should accept both sickness and death as inevitable, part of nature and the common lot of mankind. He returns to this theme many times throughout The Meditations.

“All that comes to pass”, he tells himself, even illness and death, should be as “familiar as the rose in spring and the fruit in autumn”. Marcus Aurelius, through decades of training in Stoicism, in other words, had taught himself to face death with the steady calm of someone who has done so countless times already in the past.

Donald Robertson is cognitive behavioural therapist and the author of several books on philosophy and psychotherapy, including Stoicism and the Art of Happiness and How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Government Politics

Walls & Corona-19

breaking-down-wallsThere has always been a divide between the rich and the poor. Some say that it was easier in the past to cross the divide, and others say it’s not any harder now than it was before. I have always believed the divide was more than just cultural or political. It wasn’t just that you were born in the poor section of the Bronx, but also which first-grade teacher you got, or whether one parent liked you better than your siblings, or even if your siblings were too involved in your life — or not involved enough. Or you moved too much as a child. (Have I ever mentioned the fact that I moved 15 times by the time I was 16 and that they taught multiplication tables in the third grade in Cleveland and in the second grade in Pennsylvania, so I was screwed?) I have always believed that whether we were to the manor born, or birthed in the basement of an apartment building in the Bronx, we all had walls that surrounded and squelched our ability to be our best selves. We either tore down those walls through our own strength, determination, and, of course, luck, or they became cemented by some moment in time or a series of moments. Cement walls never break down, and you can’t alter them once the cement is dry. At that point, one becomes stuck behind them, like the Jews were in the Warsaw Ghetto.

My real fear at this moment in history is that COVID-19 is cementing those walls for so many Americans and that they will never be able to break them down. Think, for example, about a kid in the Bronx, whose parents don’t have Wi-Fi or understand that classes are being taught online. Even if they did have Wi-Fi and their child had a computer (God bless those who are trying to make that happen), the environment in their home would not support the learning that must take place to continue breaking down the walls that surrounded that wonderful child at birth. Think about a young man who was attending Trinity in New York City, learning without disruption, who is now moving further and further away from the child who lives in poverty from public school who will now never break down the walls of his birth. Think about a woman who will now never leave her abusive partner because she has lost her job and her savings are gone, gone, gone. Think about a depressed, isolated teenager who was trying to make a friend at school, but who now is cemented in her aloneness and will never find the light of day.

My fear is that this virus is drying the cement that could have been removed, and there is no time to finish the job started by so many people who have now been rendered immobile. Immobility is not just in the home confinement; it’s in the lack of resources that help the most helpless to travel their roads to success without the walls closing in on them along the way. Are we doing enough to keep the cement from setting during this time? What else can we do, not just to protect against the virus shutting down our hearts, but also to ensure it doesn’t shut down the dreams of those less fortunate?

Government Politics World

Citizen of the World

downloadOn Saturday night, at the conclusion of Lady Gaga’s “One World Together at Home” concert, I wept as she and a host of brilliantly talented musicians ended with “The Prayer.” Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, John Legend, Lang Lang on the piano, and Gaga herself stunned us all, stopped us in our tracks as they gave us a vehicle for our grief as well as a path to the hope we must have to continue in this moment in history. She said we are all citizens of the globe.

It made me realize that we are all citizens of the globe. Those in Africa and Europe and everywhere else are just like you and me. They are trying to find their place, as we all are. How can I be of use? How can I protect those whom I love when I am so far away from them? And, most importantly for me right now, how can I let go of the hatred that wells inside me toward our president and the millions who mirror him. The day after he was elected in 2016, I couldn’t imagine the blanket of uninterrupted corruption and lack of humanity that he would bring about. But last night, in that moment at the end of the program, I had a flash of being a proud citizen of the world regardless of the actions of some of my fellow global citizens.

I have always cherished my American citizenship. I have felt a strong obligation to it ever since my grandfather spoke to me of our great fortune and our resultant responsibility to others. I tried very hard to instill in my child and those within my sphere of influence my belief in our responsibility to our country. I have given my time, my thoughts, and my money to furthering that which matters to our country. I shed tears over the assassination of President Kennedy and when flag-draped coffins returned from Vietnam. I just cried a few weeks ago when two soldiers came back from Afghanistan in boxes. I have been both proud and ashamed. I stood in the back of a resort in the Catskills, right out of “Dirty Dancing,” watching Nixon resign on television. While others cheered, I sat in the back, filled with shame that our president was having to leave office in disgrace. I felt it was my disgrace. Then years later, I proudly voted for our first black president, believing we had come so far from the racial division of the 1960s. The highs and lows of citizenship.

After college, I moved to New York City and became her citizen. I went to the Simon and Garfunkel concert in the park and took a moment in the dark to consider that nowhere else in our country could one attend something like this both for free and with such a scenic backdrop. On Christmas morning, I went to Dunkin Donuts and loaded up the car to deliver 200 donuts and 100 cups of coffee to the homeless at NYC’s bus terminal. I wanted my daughter to give back on Christmas, before she opened all her gifts. I watched my 7-year-old daughter Sarah as she passed out the donuts and hugged a homeless man who told her he would only take one because he was afraid there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. Sarah has chosen a life of service in the law. I am in awe of her citizenship and her commitment to her work in government, prison reform and women’s issues.

Then there was 9/11, which was a personal shock. I watched the second plane go into the towers. I lost people I knew and cared about. I went to funerals for the police and firefighters at St. Pat’s because my mayor asked me to serve in that way. I took such pride in our response as citizens of this city. I have traveled the world. There is no other New York City. Over the years, as 9/11 faded into the background of more current events, I have continued to take such great pride in our response to the events of that day.

Today, I look at my beloved New York City and those who are risking their lives — and losing them — to save the lives of other New Yorkers they don’t even know but love and cry for all the same. I watch the citizens of my city (how lucky am I to call her my city?) sheltering in place while I see those in other cities that have suffered nowhere near the amount we have, who can’t seem to understand that strapping on guns and storming the capitol steps because they don’t want to stay inside to save others shows that they have no understanding of what citizenship means. I am so proud — so very proud — to be a New Yorker right now.

This morning I woke up still thinking about citizenship, and I realized that I am also a citizen of myself. I am master of my beliefs and my vision and my morals and my ethics. It occurred to me that perhaps the kind of citizen I am to myself bleeds into all the other passports of citizenship I hold. I also get to decide who benefits from having me as their citizen and how I will honor that responsibility. I take a moment this Sunday morning to thank my grandfather John Hinckley (descendent of Thomas Hinckley, the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), who instilled in a 5-year-old me the understanding of where I belong in the world and my responsibilities as a citizen.

Government Health Politics

More of Ourselves in the Time of Corona

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 7.44.13 AMWe are so disquieted, my fellow Americans and I. Even if we don’t realize it, we are uncomfortable. Some say, “I’m fine,” but they are baking like they’re a corner bakery, or they aren’t sleeping well, or they’re arguing with friends and family. One friend said to me, “I am not having any issues at all,” but she “for some reason” can no longer sleep through the night. Then there are others who have retreated further inside themselves, totally focused on how this all affects them and believing that it is a bigger hardship for them than for others. So, if you were self-focused before, you now think this is all about you. If you have always been more nurturing of others, you may now be consumed with making or distributing masks or calling people to make sure they are OK. Whatever you were before, you are more of that now.

As for me, I’m very happy at home — just me and my dog, Bayley. The other day, I was returning from a walk on the beach by myself and realized how excited I was to get home. Of course, I then worried that my desire to arrive back at my home wasn’t healthy. Why wasn’t I yearning to get dinner with friends? Or go to a movie theater by myself, which I love to do? Am I on my way to becoming a recluse like my aunt was, or my older sister, who, in the end, passed away from self-neglect? What is there in my DNA that makes this moment in time so comfortable for me?

I don’t really feel disconnected. I feel connected through social media and Zoom (Zoom has become a verb, just as Xerox did in the ’80s; how did that happen so fast?). I have weeded out some people who when their true natures became magnified allowed me to see how unhappy I felt when dealing with them. And others to whom I was less connected have become more day-to-day companions, whom I cherish so much more deeply. Is it possible this reboot has made my life better in the long run? I think it might be so.

Don’t get me wrong; there are some people I long to see — truly yearn to see — but I know that they will be there on the other side of this pandemic. I can’t wait for the moment when we can hug and just take in the sight of one another. Yes, I have those to whom I will run, not walk, toward when all this lifts. But for right now, at this moment in history, when I have to really focus on what is happening in my beloved country, I remind myself that every minute matters – and is a gift that might not keep giving – and I need to spend them on productive endeavors to help create a better future for all who are in my sphere of influence. Or at least that is my daily intention.

Photo by Lucia Buricelli

Books Government History Politics

Anne Frank and The CaronaVirus

lebo-room3-06012017-e1496928208671-1024x640When my daughter, about whom I am not allowed to blog, was in the eighth grade, she played Anne Frank at the Nightingale-Bamford School. Her father and I, already divorced for years, went together to opening night. I knew it would be especially poignant for him. He’d escaped the Nazis in Paris during the start of WWII. I wished his mother, who was a mentor of mine and a strong woman who lived in a time that didn’t nurture that, could have been there.

We were mesmerized. I had never seen the play but had devoured the book. At the end, all the lights went out, and our daughter’s voice penetrated the darkness with the following lines:

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals; they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

He wept openly, and I sobbed. It became a memory from our parenthood that didn’t fade with time.

A friend of mine was recently complaining about having to stay inside and going stir crazy as a result. I texted her, “I have two words: Anne Frank.” I didn’t hear from her again for a while.

Sure, this is like Anne Frank’s situation. Only not.

If Anne Frank were to be found by the Nazi “virus,” it was certain curtains — not just 2% certain.

Anne Frank had no communication with anyone other than the people who were smothering her space, and she wasn’t all that fond of most of them. Eight people. Two years. Try to imagine that.

Anne Frank couldn’t move from six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock at night — every day for two years. No earbuds. No TV. Just a few books and her thoughts, which still move me. I am grateful she wrote them down.

Anne Frank couldn’t flush the toilet. Ever.

Anne Frank didn’t have enough to eat, let alone 642 rolls of toilet paper stashed away in the basement.

Anne Frank wrote a few hundred pages in her journal. Very few of them contained complaints. And when she did complain, she expressed regret for doing so.

Here is the 411: We have to stay inside to save others’ lives, not just our own. When you break the rules because you just can’t stand it anymore, the chance that you will need to be taken care of by the health-care workers rises exponentially. Anne spent much of her time worrying about Miep Gies, the woman who was risking her life to keep Anne and her family alive. We have Mieps. The doctors and hospital workers and store workers. We need to do right by them now.

Here are some of Anne’s quotes that move me on this sunny morning in the Hamptons where I am safe and able to walk outside and see the budding spring:

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

Thank you Anne Frank. We will do better.