Making America small

Maybe the saddest aspect of Trump’s trajectory to power is how he is making America small. He brags of wanting to “make America great again”. Yet, he is actually making America small, making America petty.

He is making America small in many ways:

  • He demeans the Office of the Presidency: Rather than being aspirational, reaching out to all Americans, and seeking to unite the Country, he is divisive and refuses to reach out, try to understand the hurt of those that did not vote for him.
  • His language is raw, in a negative sense: In the attempt to speak (or Tweet) in the language of the ‘everyday man’, he degrades to insults, mean, and hurtful language.
  • Diplomacy seems to be foreign to him: In the attempt to operate as a businessman deal-maker, he refuses to seemingly want to govern using one of the key values of democracy, diplomacy.


  • Ultimately, there is a disconnect of his approach to the Presidency, what he seeks to do, and how he seeks to do it, with not an inconsequential part of America – certainly including me.
  • Ultimately, I – and so many others – will have to learn to live in a country (like so many throughout the world do) where those in highest power do not hold my values.
  • Ultimately, we will have to come together as the dissidents; the opposition; the ones that believe there is a better option out there.

I wonder; I wonder… What would happen if:

  • What if thousands of teachers refuse to hang his picture because they cannot bring themselves to explain to their students how you reconcile the Office of the Presidency with the words of Donald Trump?
  • What if thousands of bureaucrats catch the ‘bureaucratic flu’ and slow to a crawl the implementation of his draconian rules and regulations?
  • What if the military blatantly refuse to go to war to simply protect his real estate investments overseas?

It is simply as if he appeals to the worst in people as opposed to appealing to the best in people. His warped singular focus on the individual without regards to the collective good is narcissist. His nationalistic focus without a broader understanding of the world in which we live is right down dangerous. His smallness is overwhelming.


On this Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for the amazing community we call home

On this Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for the amazing community we call home, Silver Spring (Montgomery County, Maryland.)

In these trying times of rampant negativism and division, exclusion, and disrespect, it is oh so refreshing to come together as a community and affirm the positive values of DIVERSITY, INCLUSION and RESPECT… And that is what we just did last Sunday at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring to shout out that we will STAND UP, THE MONTGOMERY WAY!

These are not just words of platitudes, shallow words, or simply about singing kumbaya. No. This is about recognizing that at this moment, we need to give thanks for our diversity, give thanks for being inclusive, and give thanks for being respectful. And we want to shout out for everyone near and far to hear: This IS the Montgomery Way!

We are in solidarity with the hundreds of local communities that have in the last couple of weeks manifested similar values so the world can know:

  • We are here to stay. We are not going anywhere.

We are part of the fabric of an empathetic, caring, and – yes – beloved local communities throughout these (dis)United States.

Blair High School Seniors Leading the Community in Call to Action
Blair High School Seniors Leading the Community in Call to Action

*Timed reference below refers to “minute point” at full YouTube video of event

We give thanks for:

Our diverse faith community that prays together for the good of all – at 3:30*

A leader who excels in leading all people in our community  – at 11:10*

An incoming Senator and incoming Congressman and State officials that will be part of an effective opposition – at 12:40*

A Chief of Police that cares about all in the community and knows how to instill a sense of trust – at 20:00*

A School Superintendent that reminds us school is not a place for enforcing immigration laws – at 25:30*

{ My favorite } High school youth that are such a big part of this effort – at 29:00*

A College President that connects with all in innovative ways – even reading a children’s book – at 30:48*

A 9-member County Council that I will put up against any other similar elected body in the U.S.A. as one of the best – at 33:22*

A Jewish community that minces no words about what is going on, and that we are not going back – at 35:14*

A Latino community that knows the seed has been planted and it will grow – at 37:15*

A Federal Secretary of Labor, who happens to be a local neighbor, and knows how to inspire us for what is ahead – at 38:15*

And again: A leader who excels in leading all people in our community – at 43:15*

For this amazing community we give thanks.

We don’t know what the future holds. But we do know that if we remain a diverse, inclusive, respectful community – and stand up for and with each other – we will continue building this hyper-local, vibrant, and thriving beloved community we call home.



Brilliant. The man IS brilliant! (But, pssst: Remember the First Amendment?)

How Trump’s calculated criticism of the established liberal elite institutions works for his empire building and con-game. 

In the last week alone President-elect Trump has managed to criticize three major established institutions of the liberal elite: the arts, entertainment, and press. He has done so publicly, crassly, childishly, unprofessionally, and unbecoming of the Office of the Presidency… (And, he seems to have forgotten – or more likely, conveniently disregarded – the fact that we have a First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of expression.)

> He bashed the cast of one of Broadway’s most successful play ever, Hamilton, for reading an open letter of dissent in front of the Vice-President elect.

> He scolded one of the most successful late night shows ever, Saturday Night Life, for making fun of him in a parody skit.

> He reneged at the last minute and did not meet with one of the most read newspapers ever, the New York Times, exclaiming that they cover him ‘nastly’.

Make no mistake about it: THIS is what awaits us during the Trump Presidency. Any illusions of normalcy, expectability, tradition, or protocol is out the window.

The only constant will be unpredictability. Yet it is a ‘calculated’ unpredictability. In this most recent case, he very intentionally chose three bastions of culture his opponents embrace and his supporters abhore: Broadway, late night t.v., and traditional press.

So be it. We will have to live with it. We certainly don’t have to like it. But, it is what it is.

Clearly we have a President-elect who rather drive wedges into a divided nation feeding the frenzy of his supporters without making any attempt to reconcile with, unite, and reach out to those that voted against him – incidentally: a majority of voters, by at least 1.5 million votes!

We have a choice to make: Withdraw into other worlds, focus on family, follow sports, enjoy nature, go drinking with friends… We can withdraw and live outside the cesspool that is politics, lulling ourselves to believe that it does not impact us; it will not dictate our lives; it will not force us to do something we don’t want to do… (After all, did not the stock market reach a new record high yesterday?)

Yep. We can withdraw… We can cocoon ourselves in our daily struggles and our private pursuits without worrying about the craziness around us, how others are being impacted, or what is happening around the world.

We can become Trump’s zombies. The land of the walking dead. Sleep at the wheel. Enjoying the moment in our own boxed-in, limited universe.

We can choose to be simply annoyed by the childish act of the President-elect, soon to be our President… We can chalk it all up to his ‘way of getting things done’… We can stand by and be amused – if ever so occasionally slightly embarrassed about what he says, the fights he picks, or the appointments he makes… (We can repeat night after night, as if it was our prayer: It really does not impact me. I have work to get done. I have a life to live.)

> Ultimately, you can choose to simply be a most casual observer of this emerging American tragedy.

Frankly, it is kind of easy to withdraw.

If is easy to withdraw if you are part of the seemingly majority of Americans who does not know an undocumented youth who has become a Dreamer after trusting the Federal government and providing all his/her contact information only to now be in the danger of this being his/her last Thanksgiving in the United States because of deportation threats if DACA goes away.

It is easy to withdraw if you are part of the seemingly majority of Americans who have never met a Muslim family, dined with them, conversed about their journey and aspirations.

It is easy to withdraw if you are part of the seemingly majority of Americans who have no clue that your cousin is gay and he/she had to move away from the family because no one would understand – much less accept – them.

It is easy to withdraw if you have never visited predominantly White. poor Appalachia and know the depth of despair of a family who tells you their only saving grace is now being covered by an insurance plan without regards to pre-existing conditions; and is now hearing that small step forward in coverage is about to be rescinded.

It is easy to withdraw if you are part of the seemingly majority of Americans who have never sat down with a woman wrestling with the wrenching decision whether to have an abortion or not; and instead you want to condemn her and send her to jail instead of seeking to implement – and collectively pay for – policies like prenatal care, universal healthcare for newborns, and early childhood education.

It is easy to withdraw if you are part of the American majority that are ok with demeaning the Office of the Presidency and turning it into a play thing for a show-man, a man who has clearly conned the seemingly majority of America.

However, to many of us, withdrawing is not an option.

We will continue using the arts, entertainment, and the press to fight back; to make our point; to disagree and dissent.

You see, there’s this pesky little thing called The First Amendment that we happen to believe in and even the President of the United States of America cannot so easily dismiss.


Of echo chambers and silos

Oh my.

It seems my relentless expressed opposition to President-Elect Trump has led some friends and family to distance themselves from me. A family member sent me this e-mail:

“I was forced to unfollow u on Facebook. I will miss pics of your grandchild n family but as much as I love u I can’t handle your whining diarrhea of political bs. U know how to reach me otherwise n I look forward to seeing u n yours. I pray the serious n severe rift in the family doesn’t grow deeper. God bless America n its most generous people.”


So now we turn only to those with whom we agree. We visit only websites that feed our bias. We visit only with friends and family that are willing partners in building our silos for our ideas.

Too bad.


I happen to proudly live in a community that is very left-of-center. “Progressive”, some may call it.

I work for the local County government, with all elected officials from the Democrat Party. My wife works for the Federal Government, in HIV/AIDS no less – a bastion of progressive thinking. Our community has a very high concentration of people from the ‘do-good industries’: non-profits, federal agencies, progressive think tanks, and the like.

Therefore, my personal exposure is mostly to people that think like me – or at least have similar opinions… Not that we sing kumbaya all the time. Indeed, we can be as dysfunctional, as mean, as outrageous as anyone anywhere…

Yet, there is are certain common outlook on life that most of us spouse binding us together in the community where we live. And, many in our extended family and friends throughout the country (and the world) share similar outlook. But others obviously don’t.

Our outlook is rooted in an understanding of humanity as a positive force. An understanding that most people are good people, regardless of their personal individual experience – and regardless in what part of the globe they live or where they are from.

This outlook is rooted in an understanding that community matters; that caring for each other is a good thing; and that institutions and governments are expected to be participants in doing good.

This outlook is also rooted in an expansive, outward, inquiring approach to life. We don’t know everything. Absolutes are rare – if not non-existent. Data, facts, research – science – help form our outlook. (For some of us, faith and science are not incompatible – they ultimately affirm each other.)

For most of us in this community our outlook is shaped by life experiences that include extensive interaction with people from elsewhere and from across the economic spectrum – either directly or indirectly. Most of us have a life story that have taken us to places beyond our comfort zone, either physically or metaphorically.

And for those in our community that have been around here a long time, for many generations, the outlook is one of welcoming the new people as a positive and constructive ‘value added’ to the community.


This outlook on life is in stark contrast from an outlook on life based on absolutes, simple answers, and strict dogma.

Our outlook on life is in stark contrast of the outlook on life based on experiences where you perceive others have done you wrong, others are getting free rides, and others want to take over.

Our outlook on life is in stark contrast from those who rather hang around only those like them; who don’t think there is anything to be learned from others they did not grow up with or from those that just landed on our shores.


If your outlook on life is based on what others have done to you rather than what you can do for others, then we have different outlook.

If your outlook is framed by hard edges and strictly defined rules, then it is indeed tough for us to talk.

If your outlook is that we need different people seating at the decision-making table rather than – paraphrasing Ike Leggett our County Executive in Montgomery County, MD – what we need is to make the table bigger and invite others that think unlike us to help us make decisions, then we certainly have different outlook.


(Unfortunately, I get the sense that these words are being read by my own echo chamber and silo being created willingly or unwillingly by me and us…)

Regardless, onwards we must go.



Let’s not fool ourselves: The future will be different from the past. It always has been.

Let’s not fool ourselves: The future will be different from the past. It always has been.

So, let’s go make it work – for those like us, those unlike us, those that like us and those that don’t. It would be sweet if we can work together on some stuff. But, if we can’t work together, let’s at least fight decently.

Let’s not fool ourselves: Political fights ARE personal fights.

If I perceive your political views to put the lives of my undocumented immigrants and Muslim friends at risk, I take it personally.

If you perceive my political views to put the lives of unborn babies at risk, you take it personally.

We will each use the tools and techniques at our disposition – some with their newfound elected power, others joining the people protests – to do what we can to create a world where our views prevail. Sometimes compromise will be in order. Sometimes conflict will prevail until one side or the other ‘wins’. That is the political process.

Let’s not fool ourselves: Political views impact personal relations.

If we have similar political views, I tend to want to hang out with you more often, for longer time, for that extra beer or slow cigar.

If we have different political views, I tend to move on quickly after saying hello.

{If we have contrasting different views, I promise I will restrict my comments to the weather (without mentioning climate change!), sports (without mentioning the team’s names), and wish your family well (without asking about your gay cousin.)}

Let’s not fool ourselves: Politics and faith connect

My faith is rooted in the Beatitudes as actualized by the teachings of Catholic social justice action. I find inspiration in Father James Martin, S.J., and the Franciscan Richard Rohr – Google them; good stuff!  I like Pope Francis very much. I find his message of mercy and inclusion refreshing and welcoming. (I particularly like his blending of Franciscan and Jesuit spirituality.)

I cannot separate my faith from my political views. I know that complicates matter, but that is who I am. Faith is what forms my core, unapologetically so.

Yet, I find it extremely difficult to understand collective actions driven exclusively by dogmatic, absolute faith that negate the value of people who happen to believe differently. I find it challenging to understand beliefs that negate scientific knowledge. And, I find it impossible to understand killing in the name of God, or simplistically imposing on others laws based on narrow, limited application of any one particular faith system. 

So, if you are the praying type, I will pray for you. And, as Pope Francis so simplistically eloquently says: Please pray for me.




Mr. President-Elect: You lost the popular vote. You do NOT have a mandate

Dear President-elect Trump:

Your arrogance overwhelms. So is it with Tweets like this (sent yesterday) that you want to bring America together?

“If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily.”

You LOST the popular vote because the plurality* of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton to be our next president – not you. (*Neither you nor Clinton reached 50%. She had 47.9%; you 47.2%; others 5%.)

Yes, you won the Electoral College – handily at that. You are indeed – and indisputably – the next president.

But, again and again: You did NOT win the popular vote!

Indeed, only ONCE in the last SEVEN presidential elections has the Republican candidate won the popular vote. That’s ONCE since 1992. 24 years ago. Only ONCE. And, as another reminder to you and your supporters before you get too ambitious: In the 2016 election more votes were cast for Democratic Senatorial candidates than Republican candidates.

I get it. You are the incoming President. The Senate and Congress have a Republican majority. There are more Republican Governors than Democrat Governors. The Republican Party rules the political system – except in certain, concentrated geographic areas.

This is more a quirk of how our election system is set up and the internal migration pattern of our population than a result of your appeal. Clearly, the more urban areas trend Democrat; the less urban areas trend Republicans. Democrats are more clustered. Republicans are more spread out… Simple stuff, actually.

Yet, you do NOT have a mandate to govern; much less govern unilaterally without consultation with the plurality of voters – that is, those that did NOT vote for you.

Mr. President-elect you have a choice to make. You can choose to govern by the will of those that voted for you and focus exclusively on their interests. Or you can choose to reach out, engage, appeal to, and invite to the table some of those who voted against you.

Your initial actions do not bode well for indicating that you understand the second option. You have selected a fringe character (Steve Bannon) to be your Chief Strategist, and you have purged supporters of your ex-close adviser Chris Christie from your inner circle in a way that would make Stalin (and Putin!) proud.

If you continue this pattern of totally disregarding the opposition, we are in for a long, tremulous, disruptive, and chaotic times.

You see, we will not be quiet. We will scream and shout every step of the way. We will protest every policy decision you make that disrespects any American, be them of any faith, documented or not; harms the environment; is inhumane; diminishes the arts; or insults intelligence and science.

… And: We will use every legal and non-violent means of resistance to stop your dictatorial tendencies from coming to fruition …

You see Sir: You may be our President, but many of your policies do not represent us. You may have the political power. We have the people power. You do NOT have a mandate.



Lest we forget – Why we protest

Yesterday students in our community’s high schools took to the street to protest President-elect stated agenda. I could not be prouder of our youth – and the school system and parents who supported this protest.

Why did the youth do this? Don’t they get that it is over? Don’t they get that we have a new President?

Oh, our youth ‘gets it’! They ‘get it’ all too well! It seems our school systems and their parents have taught them that a person ‘says what you mean and mean what you say’; and that demonstrating decency, respect, inclusion, and empathy are qualities and values of a good citizen… Thank you students. Thank you teachers. Thank you parents.

So, lest we forget before we move on – minimally for historical purposes if you will… Let’s remember some of the quotes our President-elect said during his meteoric rise to the Presidency:

On immigration:

  • “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” Trump said of undocumented Mexican immigrants while announcing his candidacy last June.
  • “Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants.”
  • When Trump was asked to explain the connection between a U.S. born judge of Mexican heritage of alleged bias and his ethnicity, Trump said “I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I’m very, very strong on the border… This judge is giving us unfair rulings now I saw why. Well I am building a wall and it is a wall between Mexico not another country.”
  • “For many years, Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the US by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country – as well as in other Latin American countries.”
  • Referring to undocumenteds, he said: “These are people that shouldn’t be in our country. They flow in like water.”
  • “We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out, they will come back, some will come back, the best, through a process… It may not be a very quick process, but I think that’s very fair and fine.”

On guns:

  • “It’s too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn’t have guns attached to their hip, frankly, where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction.”
  • Trump says there’s another way to fight crime – by empowering “law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves.”
  • “If you had more guns, you’d have more protection because the right people would have the guns.”

On foreign affairs:

  • “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work – torture works — waterboarding is fine, but it’s not nearly tough enough, ok?”
  • “Whether you like Saddam Hussein or not, he used to kill terrorists.”
  • On whether South Korea should have nuclear weapon: “It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them.”
  • Regarding Japan: “It’s very simple. They are going to have to defend themselves.”
  • “Wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons?”

On climate change:

  • “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”.

On 9/11:

  • “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”

On Muslims:

  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States…”

On the freedom of the press:

  • Trump has pledged to weaken the First Amendment, and “open up” libel laws so that public figures can sue and win cases against the media companies.

I get that many of these statements are politicking and posturing during the campaign to get elected. I get that he has already indicated he is shifting some positions. I get that President Obama called him a pragmatist… Yet, he said what he said. I have to take him at his word.

Mr. Trump, you will indeed be my President. But you do not represent most of my views, nor have you exhibited a behavior that I consider worthy of respect – and therefore I cannot respect you, sir… Respect is earned – not demanded or commanded, even if you are the President of the United States of America.

p.s.: This short video titled “Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill?” captures much of our President-elect’s comments – in his own words.


What we are up against – Why Breitbart in the White House matters

Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump selected Steve Bannon to be his Chief Strategist in the White House.


Mr. Bannon is the brilliant mind that invented the on-line media presence known as Breitbart. Some of this publication’s headlines include:


Yesterday’s Headline:
“Meltdown continues: Wave of fake ‘hate crimes’ sweep social media”

In the recent past:
“Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew”
“There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews”
“Gabby Giffords: The gun control movement’s human shield”
“Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy”
“The solution to online harassment is simple: Women should log off”
“Trump 100% vindicated: CBS reports swarm on rooftops celebrating 9/11”
“Data: Young Muslims in the west are a ticking time bomb, increasingly sympathising with radicals, terror”


I am NOT making this up people. I encourage you to visit their website yourself…


Mr. Trump’s outlandish comments and declarations during the campaign could conceivably be dismissed as politicking and ‘saying what it takes’ to get elected. However, Mr. Bannon’s headlines and journalistic pursuits are clear, unambiguous, definitive affirmation of his beliefs, interest, and where he wants to take America.


Mr. Bannon started Breitbart because – in part – he saw Fox News as not conservative enough. Paul Ryan is not his friend. The Republican Party is not his friend!


Mr. Bannon will be the CHIEF strategist. The individual that will define how to deal with protesters, climate change, and our international allies.


I can see the future Breitbart headlines:

“Protesters are all criminals and hoodlums”

“Climate change found to be a hoax”

“Japan wimps out; refuses to own nukes”


(Is it time we reach out to the sensible, traditional Republicans to identify where our agendas intersect and work to avoid this draconian extremist strategist from single-handily implementing his warped view of the world?!?)



To my Trump supporting friends

To my Trump supporting friends:

  • You say:get over it; you lost”. I say: This is not a game.
  • You say:it is time to heal”. I say: I am not sick.
  • You say:oh you are so angry.” I say: That’s right!


Angry that we have an indecent, inhumane President-elect.

Angry that you want to implement policies that I vehemently disagree with.

Angry that my immigrant family, LGBTQ, African American, and Muslim friends are being so insulted, disrespected, and misunderstood by the man coming into the most powerful office in the United State.

Angry that the uneducated whites have been – paraphrasing Bob Dylan – “used as political pawns for political gains.”

Angry that Science lost.

Angry that defunding critical scientific research, climate change denial, and ideology-based creationism will become the cultural norm.

Angry that anti-abortionists were duped into believing (in part by priests in my own Catholic faith) to focus all their attention on the simplistically dangerous and calice tactic of criminalizing abortion by committing to overturn Roe vs. Wade instead of committing to support prenatal care, new-born universal health insurance, adoption programs, early childhood education, and affordable child-care – proven tactics which would do more to reduce abortion than force women to revert to coat hangers.


Yep. I am proudly part of the opposition, the insurgency, the resistance.

  • I still love you, mind you.
  • I still will work with you.
  • I still will respect you.
  • AND I still will speak my mind.


You see, I come from a proud people who stood up to a dictatorial maniac and paid the ultimate price. Some had no choice but to leave our homeland. Yet today – thanks to President Obama – we are in dialogue with that very same regime. And I welcome that. I get it. But this time I ain’t going nowhere. I am here to stay. Deal with it.


Dialogue and engagement, yes. Appeasement, No!

When our agendas intersect, I will gladly work with you.

When they don’t, I will maneuver and mobilize to oppose you.

You may have the political power; we have the people power.


We will fight, resist, and protest.

We will relearn from our elders and heroes, MLK, Cesar Chavez, and the like.

We will mobilize massive resistance that you simply will not be able to ignore.

We will use our basic freedom of the press to their maximum our message.

(And when you try to squelch these freedoms, your authoritarian law and order tactics will backfire and simply make it more difficult for you to control the passion of the people.)

We will do what it takes.

We will NOT let you take us back in time to an America that was not so great.

We may occasionally celebrate joint successes; but more often than not we will go our separate ways:

  • You to your blind trust in your fearless leader. Us to our common bond with our fearless people.