I’ve had obsessions in my life.  Ah yes, David Leith in 4th grade.  Throughout high school, it was tennis.  And I’ve always had a passion for dogs.

My obsessions have been benign. 

Until now.  

My father was a man who rushed out of the house when he heard a siren.  He loved chasing after police cars, ambulances, and firetrucks hoping to see a disaster.  I prided myself on not inheriting that behavior. 

Until now.

I am in the grip of a new obsession.  It’s bad enough that it could be called an addiction.  The scream of the on-coming train-wreck has me mesmerized.

I cannot stop following the American Presidential election on Facebook.

One post after another, I gawk at unfolding stories of who said what, what has been uncovered, polls and statistics and reactions.

Minutes roll into evenings with me reading about Donald Trump:  tax evasion, sexual abuse, pornography, broken international treaties, shady business deals, close ties with Putin, 19th century levels of racism and sexism, xenophobia, narcissistic maneuvers, insults and belittling, anti-intellectualism, flights of rage, denial of constitutional principles and international protocol, drugs, vulgarity, lies and contradictions, marital sagas, repeated bankruptcy, and a range of lawsuits for his libelous and felonious acts.

Oscar Wilde said, “The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.”  And he added, “Nothing succeeds like excess.”  

Clearly Trump is not a genius.  And so, there are people who forgive his character and follow his excess.  They like being filmed for Facebook.  And in my addiction, I watch them. 

Today, it was two white women defending Trump’s unglued rage at a former Miss Universe.  They wore matching t-shirts naming themselves the Trumpettes.  They called Trump a god, just beneath the level of Jesus, and they swooned, “Finally, someone is going to save us.” 

Save them from what?  What?  If Trump’s behavior is god-like, it is a religion I reject.

I did not re-post the Trumpettes.  Yet, they and their kind make my eyes bulge and my jaw drop.  Then, I move on to read the next post instead of turning off the computer.   

I promise myself I will not re-post.  After all, anyone who is going to vote for Trump is not going to be swayed by statements from the Bush women, the living Presidents of the U.S., the Wharton School of Business, the top newspapers in the country, or the impressive array of international scientists, ambassadors, and world leaders.  

Then, as with all addictions, Facebook gets the better of me and I cannot stop myself from re-posting certain items.  I even comment on some of the posts, both the good ones and the bad.  Why do I keep scrolling down, reading post after post?    I do not understand my own fascination with the horror of this election.  Sometimes I insert a picture of a cute dog as relief from it all.

Despite polls showing the Democratic lead, despite Trump’s obvious unfitness for a national political office, especially the Presidency, still I am afraid he will win.

I am afraid he will separate my beloved country from its allies and principles.

I am afraid he will provoke a world war in order to increase his family’s profits.  It will be a nuclear war because it will make him feel powerful.

I am afraid those who like to follow the sirens will push this proto-tyrant to the top. 

Ms. Clinton is a politician, which condemns her into a certain circle of hell.  However, she is educated, intelligent, and experienced in national and world affairs.  World leaders respect her. She understands balanced budgets and has never been indicted or convicted of a crime.  She is a woman and she is strong.  She has followed through on her oaths for better or for worse. 

Ms. Clinton is calm and emotionally balanced, which is more than I can say for myself at this moment.  I am on the edge of my seat waiting, hoping for a positive outcome to this Facebook drama.

The New York Times and Washington Post assure me that my country will not lose its grip on equality, democracy, and the hope for peace and environmental progress.  I am not so sure.  My fear continues to rise.  I am afraid Donald Trump will be the President of the United States.  But I hope that we get a Hollywood outcome, where the train swerves at the last minute and everyone is saved, instead of disaster being elected.



Burkinis, A History Lesson


It’s Assumption Day.  That’s the celebration of Mary, mother of Jesus, rising to heaven.  It is a national holiday in France.  Mary was an Arab.  All the pictures show her in a shawl and veil wearing sandals.  She would have been shy about showing her body at the seashore. 

But this week, Mary would have been sent home from the French Riviera for being too modest, too religious, and too provocative, because several local governments decided to protect the laity from expressions of religion on the beach.   Mary, by default, would have been required to go topless, wear a string thong, a bikini, or perhaps a one-piece swimsuit.

The governments made exceptions.  A priest wearing a clerical collar would not be a problem, nor his counterpart nun in her habit.  Jews could wear yamikas, tzitzits with fringe, or black hats.  Jewish women in skirts with their hair covered would be welcomed.  Hindu women in sarees or shalwars would be acceptable, along with the men in kurtas and turbans.  Christian or atheist tourists with fair skin could wear pants and long sleeve shirts on the beach.  Catholic crosses, Nazi tattoos, and all types of skull and crossbones would be permitted.  These people would be expressing “our” culture, the governmental representatives said.

“Our” culture is code for racism and nationalism.   It is the polite way of saying “If you are an Arab, I hate you.”

A higher truth affirms that “our” culture is based on tolerance and inclusion, not on a superior, controlling race or religion.   

As Lafayette and Jefferson said in the 1st Article of the Declaration of the Rights of Men and of the Citizen, “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else. . ..”  They made it so simple and clear.   Local governments wanting to protect their tiny realms from “non-Western dress” have forgotten this primary principle.

Article 3 states that “. . . All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction. . ..”   The same document in article 10 says, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views. . ..” 

And the French Constitution states, “France . . . shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.”  In other words, freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the republic in France, just as in the USA. 

Such freedom is our true culture, and it applies to people of all colors, heritages, religions, genders, and capacities.  The French sum up this philosophy in their motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” demanding the end of power based on hypocrisy and intolerance.  This motto, etched into history by the blood of freedom fighters, should not be carelessly tossed aside because of fear, egotism, and prejudice, not even in a time of war and terrorism.

ISIS and Daesh wage war with the USA and Europe.   This does not involve the Muslim woman who has taken a small step toward emancipation by finding a modest costume which allows her to observe her religion and also enjoy the Mediterranean Sea.  In fact, it does not include most of the 2,038,000,000 Muslims in the world.   That is 28% of the human population.  For comparison, Jews form 0.22% of the world population.

An interdiction against wearing a burkini on the beach in order to protect the laity from religion?  On Assumption Day, when the streets are lined with pilgrims marching toward a religious statue?    Next it will be Internment Camps for Arabs, as the USA did in WWII for Japanese citizens.  Or worse, we will build gas chambers for Muslims.  And people will again practice their religions underground, in hiding, afraid for their lives.


Physicists Be Warned



There must be 2 communication systems coming out of the U.S. 

I read and listen to the system that portrays the Republican candidate Donald Trump as a deranged narcissist, ready to murder his opponents for the sake of publicity.

I hear his rants, and I see his flushed red face full of rage.  I get clips of him urging whites to fear blacks, of Americans to fear outsiders, of residents to fear refugees.  I see photos of his wife posing nude, his wife who came from a foreign country, while he demands all foreigners be excluded from the USA. 

I read the text of his illogical speeches, which sound like an illiterate adolescent is speaking.  These speeches ignore the basic rights of humans that Thomas Jefferson established for the USA.  It is as if he has never heard of the Constitution.   His speeches are Hitleresque, denigrating anyone who is not a healthy white male.  And if a healthy white male does not like him, he denigrates that person as well.

My sources point out that Trump cheats on his taxes, that he has been bankrupt numerous times, that he lies about his charity contributions, that he has close ties to Putin, that he has tendencies toward pedophilia, and of course that he has not been true to any of his 3 wives.

Then there are people who love this candidate.  They say he speaks the truth.  They assert that he is a straight shooter who will turn the country around and make it great again.

These followers believe that Trump loves America, that he will protect its citizens, that he knows how to create jobs and prosperity for the USA.  They think that he relates to the little people, the people who work 40 hours a week at minimum-wage jobs, that he speaks for them.  They like his pretty wife. 

I don’t understand where they get their information.  It seems to me that anyone who hears what I hear would be panicked that this uneducated, power-hungry buffoon could be the President of the United States, with the power to make national decisions and to conduct business and/or war internationally.

But they are certain of their perspectives.  Just as I am certain of mine. 

It is the most bizarre dichotomy I have ever experienced.  Physicists should study this moment in history, because it seems the United States of America is experiencing 2 simultaneous alternate universes.  We wait to see which will prove to be our future reality.  Or, maybe, there are other possible universes and choices.

We are Us


The morning sun in Chateau Park was glorious.   

She said, “Westerners are more civilized than Arabs.  Europeans, we are an advanced culture.”

I replied, “The Arab culture is older than ours.” 

“They are nomads and barbarians.”

“Their culture is rich in tradition.”

“They haven’t changed for hundreds of years.”

“Their cities are very modern.”

She waved her hand in the air like an expert and explained to me, “Arabs want to turn us into Muslims.  We should get rid of them.”

I was shocked.  “That’s a violent thing to say.”

“Yes.  They are a violent people.”

“No.  That’s not what I said.”

“They are dangerous.”

“You talk with such hatred.”

“I speak the truth.”

“You’re talking about millions of innocent people.”

“They are not innocent.  They murder our children.” 

I took a breath.  “All cultures have violent people.”

“They execute us without remorse.”

“The USA has violent people.”

“The USA is not as old as Europe.”

“What I mean is, it’s full of Europeans.  Its culture came from Europe.”

She sighed and smiled like I was an ignorant child.

I defended my position about the 2 Western cultures, “Remember Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.  Remember The Rights of Man.”

“Occidentals do not decapitate innocent people,” she replied.

“Not all Arabs do that.”

“They all applaud when it happens.”

I tried to stay calm.  “Westerners are the ones who invented weapons of mass destruction.”

“We don’t use them,” she said.

“You are wrong.”

She was surprised.  “I’m not wrong.”

“Westerners kill hords of people, targeted by satellite reconnaissance, with drones.”

“We don’t show it on the internet.”

“Everyone has the capacity for violence.”

She smiled, “Our civilization has progressed beyond violence.”

“You are talking about the civilization that directed 2 world wars, about people who have tried to exterminate numerous groups of people.”

“We are good people.  It’s in our genes.”

If strangling her would have opened the mind of this woman, I would have done it, but like all violence, it would not have helped.  I said, “We are not ‘them’ and ‘us.’  We are ‘us.’  We are all full of anger and ready to kill.”

She walked away.

I followed.  “We’re human.  We all are narcissists.  But also we all are able to reflect, empathize, laugh, and hope that human beings don’t focus on differences and power, but on our roots, on our children, on the future and unity.”

She looked over her shoulder at me, and kept walking. 

Talk did not help any more than violence.


Nice France 2016

I grew up learning that Negroes smell different. Men are good at math. Catholics want to take over the world which is why they have lots of babies. Germans are cold-blooded. Jews are good with money but they are cheapskates. Mexicans are lazy and slow.

The list went on. Queers are dangerous and sick. Women are bad drivers and can’t be given responsibility because they are too emotional. Doctors play golf and bankers are conservative. Japanese are smart. Politicians make money off of war.

These are not bad things, I learned. It is merely the truth, and it is always good to tell the truth.

Every group had a disparaging name, the Congregationalists and Lutherans, the Baptists, the Hari-Krishnas, the French, the Indians, and the Russians, even college graduates and poor people. Terms like “spic,” “egg-head,” and “kike” were said with a smile, because we should feel sorry for such people. Each name announced, “Don’t trust them” and “We are better than them.”

When I met people outside the descriptions — a woman who was a good driver, a boy who was better in Latin than math, a Mexican with a successful business — I realized there were exceptions to the rules I was taught.

Exceptions. I was female but I drove fast and well. Was I an exception? Did the description of the group limit the exceptions? If one generous Jew existed, if one woman was smart enough and unemotional enough to be President, if one politician believed in principles above personal gain, did the stereotype of the group silence that exceptional person? Could the stereotype control a group instead of describing it?

I grew up in America, the land of the free. As an American, I am a mutt. My blood is not pure, so it is easy for me to believe that diversity is good. Acceptance of diversity makes a person and a people stronger. The American dream infers that diverse people can live together peaceably. It is not only that we can, but we should diversify if we are to be resilient.

Diversity exists because we let people be who they are instead of forcing them to fit the specifications of the group. Diversity is the opposite of stereotyping. Diversity exists because of the exception, the exceptional, the individual. The individual can pull himself or herself up, or down, by his/her own bootstraps. The idea of the individual is my true American heritage.

An acquaintance told me today, “It was an Arab who killed those people last night on the Promenade,” as if that explained everything. I stared at him so he continued, “They hate us and they won’t stop until they kill us all. They hate Americans too.” This is the man who tells me, “All Americans are fat.” It is his nature to generalize.

Before I am an American, I am an individual. I am from the United States, and I am skinny. Not wealth or lack of it, not parentage or religion, not skin color, birth place, or gender predicts the life of an individual. The individual, not the group, is responsible for his/her choices. To think otherwise is to stereotype, the trap of false reasoning, the trap that kills individuality.

The man responsible for the attack in Nice had lived in France since his adolescence. His family came from Tunisia where the language is French. It has a population smaller than New York City and was French for 75 years. The killer was not religious or political, and was not part of radical Islam. He was in the middle of a messy divorce, which can drive anyone over the edge, especially in the face of happy people during a celebration. He is proof that killers come in many shapes and sizes.

Crazy people exist. Angry people exist, and terrorists exist. War exists. Political groups organize violent events, or take credit for them, or blame other groups for them. In 1986 Patrick Sherrill killed 14 of his co-workers at a post office in Oklahoma without being a fanatic of any sort. 700 years ago, the Catholics tried to purge the world of infidels, and not long ago at all, Hitler wanted to rid the world of Jews, homosexuals, cripples, and a list of other categories, to improve the world. Violence is not exclusive to one era or organization. There is no accurate stereotype for violence.

Stereotypes are easy. Arabs are bad. Arabs are not French. Arabs are Muslim. They are killers. They hate white people. They live off the social services of other countries. They are dirty, they lie, they dress funny just to provoke us, and they are dangerous. It’s us versus them.

I know people who say such things, but they are wrong. I know that every group has good and bad people in it because I believe in the individual instead of stereotypes. We all contribute to the culture of violence with our silence and our reactive fear, but that is not the same as launching a grenade into a crowd. That is the terrible choice of an individual.

As a child, I was taught certain things, but as an adult I get to choose what to believe. I hold onto the ideas of the individual and of diversity, because I have let go of the blindness born from stereotypes. I choose to associate with people who grieve over the 84 deaths in Nice on the night of the Bastille Day celebration, and then transform that grief into creative ideas to increase tolerance and peace instead of hatred and fear.

Lovely Hatred

I sat in Nice, France with an acquaintance yesterday who was visibly upset by the bombings in Brussels.  Of course.  This was natural.

Then she spoke, saying there was only one way to fix the problem.    I hoped this acquaintance was at least as imaginative in her solution as Cicciolina, the madame elected to the Italian Senate who offered to bed with Saddam Hussein in exchange for peace in the Middle East.

I was disappointed.  She flew into a self-righteous harangue saying all Muslims must be killed and all mosques must be destroyed, throughout the world, because the Koran was filled with violence and hate.  Only after the eradication would we be safe and at peace again.

This was a university professor speaking.  A person of intellect and learning.   She terrified me by her stupidity.  She had no inkling of her resemblance to those she  condemned.  She was so happy and proud of herself as she talked, full of the adrenalin-rush of hatred.

Me, I don’t know the solution to the problems we have today between people of the world.  But I know Muslims have just cause for fearing and hating westerners who hunt them and bomb them and denounce them, just as much as the reverse is true.  Both sides mirror each other, imagining that more violence and hatred will end the violence and hatred.  It’s an old loop of useless thinking.  But it feels so good.

I quietly told this acquaintance that I disagreed with her, and was silenced by another chapter of her venom, where she intimated that it would be better if I too were eliminated.

Strangely, I had essentially the same “conversation” with a different professor in New York after the 9/11 bombings.  His proposition to end terrorism was to “drop a nuke on the middle east and be rid of them all.”   Versions of his solution have not proven effective.

So many generations of human hatred and egotism, starting well before the Christian Crusades had its go at making the world right by using terror tactics.  My time on earth is finite.  How I wish human stupidity would come to an end also.



My Charlie


CHARLIE HEBDO is not a symbol of the Free Press. The weekly journal IS the Free Press.

It is more and more difficult to know what to believe – Why does my city’s newspaper put Presidential news on page 5 and Senate news on the front page? Is Fox News presenting the news or its own biased perspectives? Does the AP Wire omit stories of interest to under-developed nations and to religious minorities?

Do we have Freedom of the Press in the USA, or is the “news” so filtered through press releases, press secretaries, editors, and those in charge, that we hear what “They” want us to hear, learning what “They” want us to believe is fact.

The news I get on French news stations, in French newspapers, and on French radio is dramatically different than what I read in the New York Times and AOL news. The news from these sources has different slants; but more, the information itself is different. Huge stories are ignored by the American Press, and vice-versa. Is it because power behind the media promotes its own agenda and fortune?

I believe in Free Speech and a Free Press, based on the theory that if I hear it all, I will be able to make up my own mind, that if people in general hear it all, they can make informed choices. Despite our cynicism about the intelligence level of the general population, these two freedoms help us to rule ourselves, rather than to be tyrannized.

Yes, in the USA and in European countries, there are parameters around Free Speech and the Free Press. Inciting a group to riot is illegal, verbally or in print. Certain communications are considered treasonous. Threats of murder are against the law. It is illegal to mis-quote someone, or to spread untrue things which ruin someone’s character. Pornography has its limits too.

But I can stand on my corner and preach, or I can denounce all religions. I can explain my feminist views on Facebook, and condemn anti-abortion politicians in my essays. My government assures me I do not have to be afraid of speaking my mind, out loud or in print. Sometimes this promise is not kept, but it is a promise nonetheless. If I don’t like what someone is saying or writing, I can ignore it, sometimes as simply as “unfriending” a relative on Facebook. I don’t like what some people believe and say, but in line with Voltaire, I defend their right to believe it and speak about it.

CHARLIE HEBDO is not a magazine I read. It’s an unimportant weekly rag, and I am not a big follower of political cartoons. I don’t like sarcastic humor based on anger, which is only a millimeter different from effective satire. But I give CHARLIE HEBDO my respect – the journal is egalitarian with those it eviscerates. No one, no religion, no political party or system is exempt from its attacks. The cartoons span international topics and satirize their targets with precision.

Of course, the targets do not like what CHARLIE HEBDO publishes.  Would the Pope like a drawing of himself with his knickers down at his ankles while a choir boy licks his penis? This is a blasphemous image. But the point is, Freedom of the Press protects the right of CHARLIE HEBDO to publish such a cartoon. If the Pope is angry about the drawing or the “insinuation” in it, he has choices – but the one choice he does not have is to silence the cartoonist, not in a society which promises Freedom of the Press. Most certainly, no one has the right to silence another by murder.

“I am Charlie” means I believe in Free Speech and the Free Press even when I do not like what is said or is printed. It means you cannot kill me, you cannot kill my open mind, my fierce pride in my freedoms. The slogan means the spirit of freedom is immediately passed onto to others when a few die, and you cannot kill us all. But CHARLIE HEBDO does not “mean” anything. CHARLIE HEBDO is.  It does not need to be an important or sophisticated journal to be protected.  It exists, and therefore it illustrates our fundamental rights on its pages and by its presence. And ironically, CHARLIE HEBDO’s survival has been ensured by the horrific attack on it.