Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Love America. Trumpian Nationalism Scares Me

This was a bad week.

Saudi Arabia

Megyn Kelly

Pipe Bombs

Murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue

The Stock Market

We have these kinds of weeks occasionally and they serve to remind us that we have deep and serious problems both at home and in the world that require our thoughtful, serious, sober attention. The bigger problem, though, is that we do not have a thoughtful, serious, sober president who has the skills to lead us effectively through this rough patch. In fact, the president is in some ways is creating the atmosphere in which these events can flourish.

Please don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that President Trump is the cause of these terrible events. What I am saying is that he has a hand in setting the tone under which they can develop and grow.

It's time to retire "politically correct" from our lexicon because all it does is give cover to those people who blame it for repressing free speech, when what they want to say are vile, hateful things to anyone they want, and it's usually used by whites who don't quite understand that what they might want to say shows that they have no sense of decorum or justice. Blackface is, and always has been, racist. So has dressing up like a cartoon of someone's ethnic background.

The president has not helped with this because he ran on a firm rejection of respectful speech, using racial, ethnic and sexist slurs against anyone, even military personnel, members of congress, judges and foreign dignitaries who opposed him or questioned his questionable judgement. Is it any wonder that we have people like Megyn Kelly uttering spectacularly racist statements? Or that we have a company such as Google protecting male executives who committed heinous acts of sexism and harassment at work?

Which of course brings us to our latest example of violence and hate, American style. The president has said, repeatedly, that the media is the enemy of the people. It looks like some people have received that message loud and clear. And what's worse is that after a few comforting words, the president went right back on the campaign rally trail and continued to vilify the media after more pipe bombs were discovered. The mainstream media is not the problem; continuing to blame and create scapegoats is the problem.

But what made this week even worse when the president referred to himself as a nationalist, and then taunted those who really understand what his brand of nationalism means.

It's not inclusive.

It's not positive.

It's not helpful.

It creates victims.

And you'll please excuse me for bringing up the past, but as  Jewish American, I cannot ignore what historical nationalism has meant to my people. It's been used to define us as not: not part of the country, not part of the group, not part of the culture, not part of society. That the president apologized for using nationalism as he does says to me that he understands, albeit in a limited way, what nationalism has meant to minorities and those people who have traditionally been excluded from the nation. At the same time, though, he has excused the actions and words of the very right wing hate groups that promote antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.

All you have to do is listen as he and his followers describe the women and children trying to make a better life for themselves in this country as an invasion force worthy of evoking a military response on our southern border to know that this is the language of hatred, fear and loathing. Presidents are role models and they have traditionally been careful about what they say. This president has discarded that, to the detriment of the nation.

At the same time, without investigating, he nurtured the theory that the Saudi government had little to do with the death of Jamil Khashoggi, even going so far as asking the Saudi Crown Prince if his government was involved. Trump took the Prince at his word. That word was a lie.

I have all but given up on the president changing his tone to one that includes all Americans and exhorts us to use our common wisdom, our vitality and our common sense to solve our problems. As long as he sees this country as one in which there are people for him and people against him, then he will continue to divide us.

It's up to us to change that. Make sure you vote on November 6 for candidates that will form a bulwark against policies that will enrich the few, blame the other and venerate the narrow at the expense of the many.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Dictator See, Dictator Do. And the Lies Cost Lives

I know it's tough to be Saudi Prince Muhammed bin Salman. After all, you're only 33, which is not enough time to know...anything about how the world really works. You're fabulously wealthy. You head a government that brooks no opposition and you believe it derives its power from the consent of the governed God and your own assumption that you and only you and your family, although not your brothers and cousins, are fit to rule the country.

You also must contemplate a future for which your country is ill-prepared: a future where oil and gas are in decline and the climate, including the E-Z Bake Oven you call your country, is warming past bake and into broil territory. You've done some prior planning in response to this and you're encouraging wealthy business people and other countries to invest in your future so you can keep your mandate, your power, and the billions of dollars to which you've become accustomed.

Oh, and then there's that devastating war you've pursued in Yemen. You know, the one that's been labeled the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. And you continue the fighting Iranians are your worst enemy and they're arming Houthi rebels in Yemen and this as a gigantic threat to your well-being. meanwhile, there's no end in sight mainly because the rest of the world doesn't see what's happening.

So the last thing you need now is for the world to focus on the torture, killing and dismemberment of a journalist--a journalist!--who lives in Virginia and wrote scathing critiques of you and your government for the Washington Post. You thought that you could slip this one past the world. After all, what's a journalist's life worth in Putin/Trump/Dutarte land? Journalists write stuff that makes us all feel bad and besides, it's not very patriotic to critique your country and your dictator leader better government.

At least Donald Trump gets it. He called you and you lied to him about the Khashoggi case and he defended you on the principles of Western jurisprudence, which you don't really give a darn hoot about, but the point is that he believed you and with all of this representative democracy that threatens to break out here in SA it's nice to know that you can lie to the President of the United States and he will still be your friend. Of course, buying a few hundred billion dollars of weapons that can be used against Houthi rebels in Yemen helps your relationship with Trump, but those other Republicans are heaving religious morals at you which really, really hurts.

What really hurts the most, though, is that the world doesn't believe your excuses. You are being questioned. You are being exposed. You have little moral authority. And we didn't even mention that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, or that your father tolerated the extreme Wahhabism that has fueled the terrorist ideologies that are presently wreaking havoc in the world.

There is blood on your hands. And there isn't enough water in the oceans to wash it off.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 14, 2018

You Want Change? Vote.

Are you angry? I mean, really angry? Angry about Brett Kavanaugh? Angry about the administration's refusal to consult science about...anything? Angry about the weather? NFL players kneeling? Liberals calling for impeaching the president? Conservatives actually taking the president seriously? The president?

This is not healthy for the country or for you. And heading into the midterm elections, it's not helping the country have anything close to a reasoned debate about the issues.

Time to breathe.

I hate to say it, but it doesn't look like the Democrats are going to win back the Senate, and the House is going to be closer that many political analysts thought in the summer. If you're on the left, that means total GOP control of the Congress for two more years. More deregulation, more pollution, less health care, more tax cuts for the wealthy, and more men making decisions for women.

What to do?

I know. Vote. Register to vote if you haven't done that, but if you have, vote. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to register and vote, especially if you want to back up your complaints with action. Don't let older voters, who supported Donald Trump and vote in large numbers, outvote you.

Have you seen this video?

Yes? Then if you haven't registered, what are you waiting for?

No? Then take it as a challenge and register and vote.

That's the surefire strategy for effecting change. Otherwise, politicians will dismiss your concerns and see you as irrelevant. Because, in a sense, you are.

It bothers me greatly that many Americans will tip their hats to both active duty and veteran soldiers, thank them for their service and defense of this country, and then not follow-up with the one single best way to show your pride and commitment to their efforts.


Make yourself relevant.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Farce Continues: Wake Me Up When Brumaire Ends

Yes, I've been reading Karl Marx while listening to Green Day.

Yes, I'll explain.

You've heard the phrase: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

Marx wrote that in an essay in 1852, comparing the rise to dictator of Napoleon's nephew Louis Napoleon to a farce when compared to Napoleon's rise in 1799, which occurred--you guessed it--on 18 Brumaire according to the French Revolutionary calendar.

Yes, I know, great way to ruin a pithy historical reference.

I digress.

The farce seems to be upon us, but this time it's the second time around of the Reagan Revolution and it's being perpetrated by a clownish president, the High Holiness of Hypocrisy, Mitch McConnell, and the tragic figure who smiles while having her reputation ripped off of her like a cheap bodice, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. There are, of course, other actors, including the nominee himself, Brett "Keg" Kavanaugh, Joe "DINO" Manchin, and Senator Lindsay Graham, the Frddie Blassie Award winner for his lack of decorum or of saying anything that someone should want to listen to, and the media machine that kept it in front of us for the past two weeks.

But farce it is, and my sense is that Ronald Reagan is spinning so fast in his grave we could tap him as a power source. Yes, the main ideas of smaller government, increased recognition of religious rights, tax cuts, and increased military spending are still in the GOP jukebox, but now they've added the overt racism that comes with opposing social programs and housing opportunity, a tax cut bill that punishes vast swaths of the middle class and will result in their paying more in April that what they received in their checks, anti-unionism, voter suppression, tolerance and, in some cases, acceptance, of white supremacist groups, unchecked sexism, and the vile, uncompromising, inappropriate, dangerous, misogynistic, insulting blather that comes from the president's mouth and phone on a moment-by-moment basis.

And you know what? The GOP doesn't care. The president doesn't care. The right wing media doesn't care. The Senate clearly doesn't care, and the House hasn't cared since 1994.

That's the farce. But we can rebuild this country. We have the technology. And the effort has to come from both left and right. We start by electing Democrats to the Congress, but more importantly, to the statehouses. If you have a state legislative or Gubernatorial election this November, it's key that you keep or elect Democrats to office because they will have the responsibility to remap state districts in 2021, after the next census. It's also important because state legislators become seasoned at that level and then become attractive candidates for federal office. The GOP has dome this masterfully for the past 30 years, and look at where they are now.

And when you consider that of the 7 presidential elections held since 1992, the GOP has one a popular majority...once--that's right, once, in 2004--then  you can see the effects of a state strategy that pays off. You can also see how farcical the GOP claim is of being the majority party or of garnering support from the American people.

It's crucial to come out and vote.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest