Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Drain the swamp, I dare you

Karen was out early early for work today, so it was a Daddy morning.  I went up into our daughters' dark room and sat next to my youngest - first making space by adjusting the legs of the six-foot-tall bear that also occupies her bed.  She's a quiet waker - so when she felt the bed dip when I sat, she rolled over there in the dark and slowly opened one eye.

Daddy, she said in a quiet voice to match her quiet room. Is Trump President?

I could have said a lot - but I didn't. I just whispered, Yes.

And she closed her beautifully brown eye and sighed. And I'm glad both eyes were closed because she didn't see me cry, just a little, there in the dark.

Kristina, who was so excited yesterday morning.  For Kristina right now, so many of her thoughts revolve around gymnastics.  She practices it, watches it, lives it - it's her prism.  So much so that she asked Karen:  Mommy?  Is Hillary the first girl to get to the Finals?

Right now, I don't much care to hear what either side is saying in the light of yesterday's result. Here's the thing - if you opposed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, yeah, whatever, you think she's the lowest of the low. I'm not sure you understand what a real crime is, what real illegality is.  Malfeasance?  Go look it up - and yes, that's me being condescending because I think I'm always the brightest person in the room (as long as Karen's not there because she outclasses me in virtually everything).

But go ahead, hold on to your belief that Secretary Clinton is a criminal. If that comforts you, makes you feel superior, knock yourself out.

For me - I don't know, I'm pretty basic at heart.  Just a guy who runs a bookstore.

Let's start there.  When I'm hiring, I look at the person first. I used to prioritize book-knowledge over everything.

But here's the thing. If you're bright, and open-minded, I can teach you about books, but I can't teach nice. I can't teach personable. I can't teach empathy. So those qualities come first, because the atmosphere I'm trying to create in the bookstore is warm and inviting. That begins with the people I hire, not the books I stock.

This morning? As I unlocked our front door at 9 o'clock? My first customer was a woman about my age, looking as haggard as I did, and she walked in and said:

Thanks for being here. I needed a peaceful place to visit.

And that was sad, but satisfying, because it let me know - in her eyes at least - that atmosphere I was talking about had, yes, been created for her.
If you're running for the highest office in the land...what's the number one thing for me?  Character.  The quality of a person's nature - because everything follows from that quality, that aspect.  It's that quality that's important - the thing you can't teach. And if you're a good person, then I'll look and listen to your beliefs and see if they align with my own, and the more that they do, the more likely it'll be that I'll vote for you.

Do I think Mitt Romney is a good person? I do, I do. Do I admire George H. W. Bush? Indeed. Do I disagree with the politics of both those men? Often, yes. But if I had the opportunity to meet either, I'd gladly shake their hand and talk to them about their views on this country of ours.

I don't think Mr. Trump is a good guy. I don't think you do, either.  Not if, for one moment, you were completely truthful.  You heard the vile things he said. You heard those things, right?  You were embarrassed by his words, right?  If you were embarrassed, you know that it wasn't banter - those were the statements of a crude, narcissistic predator. You drain a swamp in the battleground state of Florida and that's exactly what you'll find slithering there, Trump covered in mud.

That's not a man I'd be interested to meet. Not a person I'd shake hands with. Ever.  For me, it starts with the person, and that's why I wouldn't have considered him as my candidate for one moment.

If you want to talk to me about character - about his character - I'd be eager to do so.  Let's talk about how he stiffs his contractors just because he can.  Or his failures as a businessperson - losing hundreds of millions of dollars - and how you've paid for those abysmal failures.  How he mocks people with disabilities - and thinks it's funny.  How he wants to curtail the rights of a free press, freedom of assembly.  How he prefers addressing mobs because rabid, slavish, and moronic followers can easily be incited to violence, to physically attack his critics because he can't accept criticism.  Would you like to talk about his views of women?  His views on minorities or those who don't believe in his God?  Do you want me to go on?  I can go on.

You know he's morally stunted.  You know he's concerned with one person - and one person only.  Want to know why kids can take one look at Trump and see him for the bully he is?  Because kids deal with bullies every day and that's exactly what Trump is, and more.  Not just a bully.  Not just a spoiled, rich kid who's also a bully.  A spoiled, rich-kid bully whose narcissistic arrogance now threatens to endanger our country.  There's your President-Elect Trump.

If that's your guy - knock yourself out.  Go live with that.  Me?  I'd rather have a President I can look up to, someone that I admire more than I don't even if we sometimes disagree.  Not some cretin who, when a news-story broke about his loathsome words concerning women - and my daughter asks from the back seat:  Daddy, what are they talking about? And I can't answer her with any specificity because Mr. Trump's words were so vile - yeah, if that's your guy, knock yourself out.

Today, mostly, I'm embarrassed.  Embarrassed because I didn't say anything about this election.  A coward because I feared angering family and friends.  I don't pretend to have much of a platform, but when I do stand on my soapbox I'm selling books and booze.  Sometimes I share pictures of my girls, my sensitive and smart girls.  I didn't do politics because I was scared.  Forgot the poetry of Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

That's me in a nutshell.  A coward.  Too worried to say what I think because what will, in turn, people think of me?

This morning, after I went downstairs to finish making breakfast, my girls followed a few minutes later - having taken the time to dress for school.  I looked over to tell them again that I love them - I do that a lot, the telling - and I saw that they were both dressed in black from head to toe.

I must've looked at them quizzically because Elizabeth answered a question I hadn't asked.

Because it's important, Dad, she said.  So people will know how I'm feeling just by looking at me.

That girl isn't a coward.  She takes more after her mom.

Because it's important, indeed.


  1. You are no coward, you're a good man who is awake, angry, loving, creative and changing lives everyday with your beautiful and open heart! You are also a good friend to me and to so many...

  2. Thank you for sharing your quandary with us all. I am still speechless.

    1. Me too. Me too. Thanks for reading, though - I appreciate it. Sigh.

  3. I'm still in recovery from the horror and the pain of this new, seemingly unreal, reality. Personally, I just couldn't stomach my Trump supporting relations for this year's TG festivities. I'm now so very grateful for my wife's, previously slightly annoying, Berkeley born parents and siblings. Thank you for your well chosen words and for the reminder of Pastor Martin Niemöller devastatingly relevant poem.

    1. Sorry, I missed your comment when it was posted. Thank goodness for Berkeley-born parents!