Anti-Trump Protesters Gather In Union Square

November 12, 2016

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And so again they came.

New Yorkers aghast at the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States gathered in Union Square, just as they are gathered in towns and cities across the country, to signal their fears, their outrage, their beliefs, their defiance and ultimately their hopes for a sane, inclusive and compassionate America. They then proceeded to march peacefully up 5th Ave to the hideous Trump Tower where they were met by a massive police presence.

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The Surreal Real: Coming to Terms With President Trump

November 12, 2016

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Three days later and I’m still reeling. Three days of numerous stunted conversations with both friends and strangers, all replete with pauses and head shaking and holding up of hands, all ending with words neither illuminating nor comforting. The fact, like the sudden death of a friend, is too brutal for either. The unspeakable has been spoken. Loudly. Across the nation and the world. By tens of millions of my fellow citizens. It brings a sense of profound dislocation, a shattering of one’s sense of reality, a confirmation of one’s worst fears about our own nation. A FDNY friend calls and tells me he has not felt this sense of loss since 9/11 when scores of fellow firemen perished beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers. Another, older friend compares his feelings to those he felt on and after November 22, 1963.
Suddenly, overnight, the horribly surreal is all too horribly real and will remain real for years.

I find myself asking, where the hell am I? Is this the country of my birth? Yes, it is. And most resoundingly, no, it is not. Something has changed. Something primal and riddled with inchoate rage and violence, something that has been growing for many a year, has been revealed. And no event in my life has made that revelation more horribly obvious than the stunning election of Donald J. Trump, a man who has never lifted a finger for anyone other than himself, a man who embodies all that is debased, degenerate, degrading and dangerous in American culture, to nothing less than the presidency of the United States. And this at a hour when, due to the machinations of G.W. Bush and the connivance of Barack Obama, the powers of the presidency have been expanded and enlarged more than any time in American history. The event is singular in its indictment of both the American people and the American political system, particularly the Democratic Party , that pushed such people to such desperate measures.
I never watch TV news and I find myself obsessed with watching TV news, as if I somehow need visual verification that this event has actually happened and I am not, in fact, hallucinating. And there it is: Donald Trump, the same man who spoke of grabbing pussy and banning Muslims and building a wall to keep out Mexicans, is sitting in the Oval Office with Barack Obama preparing to take it over. There is Donald Trump, the same man who cheered on spectators attacking protesters at his rallies and bragged about not paying taxes, being led by Speaker Paul Ryan to the spot at the Capital where in 70 days he will take the oath of office. Meanwhile, the talking heads speak of Trump’s cabinet, naming Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, all of whom four days ago were punch lines.

Reeling.

I am trying to come to terms with the fact that this obscene and sickening narcissist, a man who has never spent five minutes in public service, this scamming, hustling, Reality TV personality, will be leading my nation, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and I cannot.
And yet I must.
More, as significant as the political aftermath are the cultural effects, which for many supporters of the president –elect means instant legitimization of the basest of human impulses: racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti LGBTQ,, anti any and all progressive movements. Indeed, as reports of high school students chanting “white power” and “Build the wall” filter in, such horror has already begun. Certainly, white supremacists, who loudly made their presence felt at his rallies across the nation, are rejoicing in the ascension of this grotesque man.

Still, as with any violent and traumatic attack on one’s sense of reality, the mind in time fights back because it must fight back. It would be absurd to look for silver linings in this darkness but perhaps, perhaps, perhaps with enough work there will be opportunities, which are a very different thing.

Perhaps there will at last be widespread recognition of the immense political betrayal of working class Americans by the Democratic party, especially under Clinton: NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the laws that led directly to the mass incarceration of millions, mostly African Americans, and above all, the political apotheosis of Wall Street. All of this continued unabated under Bush and Obama, all of it that has led directly to the greatest concentration of wealth in the fewest hands in modern times and the simultaneous immiseration of millions of Americans, now so crazed and hopeless that enough of them seek salvation in the absurd and vicious promises of a billionaire con man with no political experience or knowledge of governance whatsoever.

I have in my travels over the past few years met and spoken with some of these people, formerly working class and now called the “precariat “ as their lives have become so precarious. Former members of the Democratic party, one and all, formerly well employed, now forgotten and seething in their hollowed out cites and towns which no killer app can save for the simple reason that no killer app was meant to. I have felt their volcanic anger and their completely justified sense of primal betrayal and it was frightening. Yet I did not see this coming.

What to do ? What to do ?

I do not know.

What I believe is this: The election of Trump is an unprecedented political and cultural disaster demanding unprecedented political and cultural responses — chief among the latter, solidarity and decency and kindness which in an age of casual cruelty take on radical proportions. Protests have begun. May they continue and grow and grow and grow. Mass civil disobedience on a scale never before seen in America may be our only hope. There is nothing that would please the powers that be more than violence as it would be instantly and indefinitely used to justify massive police oppression.
Whatever we do may we have the wisdom to do it right.


A 150 Mile Journey For Justice: 10 Years after Legal Decision, Billions Are Still Owed New York State Schools

October 2, 2016

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Parents, students, teachers and elected officials gathered together in downtown Manhattan this morning at a press conference before some of the participants began a 150 mile walk to Albany to demand the payment of billions of dollars New York State owes their schools. The protest pilgrimage called “EdWalk2016” commemorates the ten-year anniversary of the decision
reached in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case that directed New York State to adequately and equitably fund poor school districts. During the same decade, the New York State has implemented draconian “reform” after draconian “reform,” such as ever changing and incomprehensible teacher evaluations linked directly to ever more difficult student tests.

On Broadway

On Broadway

Former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson

Former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson

I met the marchers in Times Square.

Bringing the word to  Times Square

Bringing the word to Times Square

“We have teachers from Buffalo, Schenectady, Syracuse, Westchester County, Long Island, and every part of New York city. Twenty-three of us are walking to 153 miles to demand the $3.9 billion that have been denied our students and our schools,” said special education teacher Henry Montalto, one of the walkers.

Pilgrims-teachers Mindy Rosier and Henry Montalto

Pilgrims-teachers Mindy Rosier and Henry Montalto

The protest is organized by the Alliance for Quality Education.


Cycling the Erie Canal

September 4, 2016

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For me, there are few things as invigorating as a long, quiet bike ride through a place in which natural beauty intertwines with both history and the daily life of town and city dwellers; few things I enjoy more then the contemplation and kind of moving meditation such journeys allow and invite. The Erie Canal bike trail offers them all in abundance if you want them and as the summer nears its end, I was fortunate enough to, once again, experience them.

And very happy I did.

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Predictably, Trump signs were abundant, especially in the small towns. Indeed, it seemed to me the more economically devastated the town, the greater the number of Trump signs. I engaged, in fact, in a few conversations over coffee with various Trump supporters that echoed the utter incoherence of Trump himself, minus the man’s viciousness.

So it goes.

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To give perspective to America 2016, to Trump and Clinton and all they embody, at the Jesuit shrine in Auriesville, I visited the graves of two recently departed friends to whose lives and teaching I am forever grateful and whose radical humanity I think of daily.

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And daily was the green and the silence. And daily was the water.

Flowing.

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Bloomberg’s Appearance at the DNC Makes a Mock of Bill Clinton’s Ode To Hillary

July 27, 2016

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For those who were moved by Bill Clinton’s touching if highly sanitized and edited
paean to his wife last night – the man is very, very good at this kind of thing – you would do well to note today’s key note speaker: former NYC Mayor, multi billionaire, union busting and super neo-liberal Michael R Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s political beliefs were most clearly articulated when, through a combination of ruthless employment of the machinery of state, his own immense fortune and an ever expanding host of non-profit organizations serving as mercenaries of the super rich, he purchased a one time only third term as Mayor by corrupting a spineless City Council into allowing him to do so. And this despite two referendums against third terms.

At this point, Bloomberg’s appearance is strange by any normal standards in so far as, like Donald Trump, the man has shown zero allegiance to any political party, moving from Democrat to Republican to Independent depending on how such affiliations benefit Mike Bloomberg at any given moment. And it is particularly note worthy in light of Bill Clinton’s repeated and highly dubious characterization of Hillary Clinton’s history and career as a “builder from the bottom up” and the like.

Bloomberg epitomizes the oligarchic America which Sanders railed against and which Hillary skillfully avoids acknowledging. As NYC mayor, Bloomberg spent 12 long, miserable years expending enormous amounts of energy and money while doing his very best to simultaneously destroy the United Federation of Teachers and privatize the public school system. He failed in both attempts, but the damage he inflicted on students and teachers is immeasurable and still very much present.
Bloomberg spent 12 years doing all he could to remake New York in his image, a desire he shares with his fellow billionaire and would be president Donald Trump. Indeed, Bloomberg is, in many ways, like Trump if only with more cunning, less public vulgarity and with a complete absence of Trump’s phony populism.

I will admit that I was shocked to read of Bloomberg’s appearance at the DNC, even as I am fully aware of what a sham and a fraud the whole circus truly is. Still…Michael Bloomberg? And yet, the more I think of it the more it makes perfect sense. If nothing else, Bloomberg’s appearance reaffirms how ever so close and ever so horrific our two parties have become and will remain until a real alternative is forged.