Ideals Require Courage

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. Anne Frank

Republican presidential candidates should heed Anne Frank.

The terrorist attacks in Paris triggered a reality show that featured Republican presidential candidates in the midst of a group panic attack.

“This is a clash of civilizations,” incorrectly asserted the too-slick Rubio.

“Only let Christians in,” bawled the passive Bush and scary Cruz.

“Close America’s door to orphaned toddlers from Syria,” roared the bully Christie.

“Close the Mosques,” bellowed the hollow-man Trump who thinks requiring Muslims to wear an identification card is a good idea.

Giving neurosurgeons a bad name, Ben Carson compared Muslims to “mad dogs.”

“No refugees can come to our states,” proclaimed unlawful and “the sky is falling” Republican governors (and one democrat). They whined in mass when President Obama called them “un-American.”

And President Obama’s opinion: “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends…our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”

I’m with the president.

For those of us fearful of a terrorist from Syria coming into the United States as a refugee, I quote from the Economist:

“Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and International intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.”

I don’t like demagogues for leaders or politicians who fear-monger and demonize others to justify going against our values. Heed Voltaire’s observation: “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

I don’t like leaders who try to make political points by refusing the helpless and powerless—most of them women and children.

I like my president and congressional leaders to be calm, deliberate, and thoughtful. I also like my leaders to be courageous, compassionate and clear thinking. Leaders stay true to long-held American values in the toughest of times and this is not one of America’s toughest times. Real leaders protect the powerless and helpless and women and children.

The attacks in Paris gave us a window into ourselves and those who aspire to lead America into the future.

Do we want a president with an apocalyptic world view who loses his nerve in a crisis and shoots before he aims? Do we want to lose our humanity?

Republican presidential candidates failed the real-time test of presidential leadership: Their eagerness to run from American values to get votes disqualifies them as serious presidential candidates.

Terrorist attacks scare us. That’s understandable. But let’s not get hysterical and let fear bring out the worst in us and allow the terrorists to win. We defeat the terrorists with courage and adherence to America’s history and core values. What will be become of us as a nation if at the first moment of fear we throw out our values and fall-apart?

A friend wrote: “If we set policy based in fear we fail. If we set policy based on our values, we redeem ourselves. Nothing less than our identity as a nation is a stake.”

“The vote by the House of Representatives effectively to slam the door on Syrian refugees was the crassest kind of political grandstanding, scapegoating some of the world’s most vulnerable people to score political points.” Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, Nov. 22, 2015

Are We Good Enough for the Times?

When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution—that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion. —President Obama:

Republican leaders do nothing to stop deranged young men from buying automatic weapons to use to commit mass murders in our schools, churches and movie theaters. To do something would require them to have the courage to risk their political jobs and stand up to the NRA and do what is right.

But they have no difficulty refusing sanctuary in America to helpless and powerless refugees—mostly women and children. Even to refuse under 5-year-old children to enter America (Chris Christie). Or to discriminate against them based on their religion (Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz) or threaten to close their Mosques (Donald Trump) in the country of religious freedom. Instead they hysterically try to seize the political moment to manipulate the fears of ignorant Americans and benefit politically from the suffering of victims of terrorists. They think themselves so tough. I think of them as men of weak character.

Political posturing on the despair of the powerless is particularly despicable.

Where are their ideals of courage and compassion and a commitment to clear thinking?

Republican presidential candidates have failed the test to be commander-in-chief.

Too many of us in all walks of life have lost a commitment to important American ideals in our effort to win the next election, gain the new promotion and have a life of personal comfort.

Our ideals guide us all the time, especially when the times are difficult. The behaviors our ideals require separate us from those who hate us. If out of fear and ignorance we abandon our values in tough times, what distinguishes us from those who want to destroy us?

Scott Peck, MD wrote that stress is the test of our goodness. Watch our presidential candidates, discern their motives and see which ones show the maturity, character and clear thinking needed to be president in the times in which we live. And which ones stay true to America’s core values of courage and compassion even when afraid.

Hopefully the panic and madness will pass soon.

To Paris’ helpers, with love

I wanted to share Heather’s blog with a wise piece of advice for all.
Thank you Heather.


When I heard about the attacks in Paris last night, my first thought was my friends. They come from all walks of life: journalists, musicians, authors, photographers. One is a tour guide; another is my underground muse. A couple are unemployed — and a couple more are retired. In spite of their diverse backgrounds, though, last night they all had something in common: They were in Paris, but I didn’t know where.

I spent hours sending emails and making phone calls, and grew more relieved with each response. By this morning everyone was accounted for, as the last of my Facebook friends checked in. (Although it makes me profoundly sad that Facebook even has this feature, I’m also profoundly grateful.)

Friends marked safe BLOG

Then the rest of it sunk in: How would Paris react to this horror? Would the city be paralyzed by fear? Would there be a backlash of scapegoating and…

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Madison was a great dog. Dr. Ken

We said goodbye to our beloved Maddy recently.

Maddy was Melanie’s dog before we married 13 years ago. I wasn’t particularly drawn to black labs. But I worked from home and spent much time with Maddy and Casey, our American Eskimo.

We walked five miles almost every day. Maddy loved to walk and run away if she could. We thought we had lost her a few times but after an hour or so she would come home with a big smile on her face.

We went to the lake in the summer. She loved to swim. We threw things for her to fetch and she would swim all day long if she could.


Maddy was a lover. She connected with everyone she could get close to. She liked to burrow her head into and through you and would be so excited that it was hard to pet her. She never gave or received enough affection.

I came to love Maddy.


The years flew by. She was now more than 14 years old and had issues the last two years. Her back legs were bad and our walks went from five miles a day to a long block on a good day. It was painful to watch her lie down: so stiff and slow. It had to hurt, but she never showed it. Dr. Ken said, “She is a tough dog.”

Stiff and sore or not, she never hesitated to get up when Melanie or I were in the kitchen where she might get some food. She ate anything fit for human consumption and much that wasn’t.

The time came when she was unable to control her bowel movements. We coped with it for 18 months and frequent messes were hard on us. We tried to figure out her digestive system so we could predict when it was time to get outside but we never could. She became more and more unpredictable. It hurt us to restrict her to the mudroom near the end of her life. She didn’t like it.

Casey has lived with Maddy all of his 11 years. He began to show symptoms of anxiety. He didn’t seem to like it that Maddy had to be in the mudroom. When Casey ate, Maddy would stand behind the gate and stare at him. Casey began to move his kibble, one piece at a time, to a place out of Maddy’s sight, eat it and go back for more. He snuggled closer to Melanie and me and aggressively scratched the floors and rugs.

We hoped and prayed Maddy would pass in her sleep.

Finally we went to Dr. Ken. He told us it was time for us to act on Maddy’s behalf.

We took 11 days to try to prepare ourselves and to say goodbye. The kids spent time with Maddy. They took wonderful photos. Maddy loved their visits.

We cried—some openly, others privately.


The dreaded day came. We filled up with guilt and sorrow. Maddy got extra food and treats.

She was thrilled to go for a ride.

We arrived at the animal hospital and Melanie walked Maddy outside and let her smell the piles of leaves—always a big attraction. We went to an examination room. We gave her lots of dog biscuits while we waited for the doctor.

Maddy was happy to see Dr. Ken. He administered a sedative. Maddy never seemed to feel shots and she showed no sign that she felt the injection. She laid down as the drug took effect. Dr. Ken picked her up and put her on the examination table. When we were ready, he administered the shot. Maddy did not react.

And then she was gone.

We stayed with Maddy for a time and cried over her.

I hope this great dog knew how much we loved her.

Enemies or the Opposition?

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
Winston Churchill

Hillary Clinton jokingly referred to Republicans as enemies while Joe Biden said Republicans were not enemies but the opposition in Congress.

I believe that the leading Republican presidential candidates, who appeal to America’s darkest fears, would lead the nation into accelerated decline and would revive the vilest aspects of America’s history and shadow side. And indifferent Democrats may let that happen.

Author and psychologist Rollo May defined a pseudoinnocent as a naive person who has blinders on and who does not see real dangers. Pseudoinnocents cling to childhood assumptions about the nature of the world. They do not want to acknowledge power or aggression much less use their innate power and aggression. How many indifferent Americans are pseudoinnocent and cannot see the dangers that threaten their way of life or the life they aspire to?

Author of The Denial of Death, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote: “If everyone lives the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.” I often think of Fox News, conservative talk radio and the extremists of the Republican Party when I read this quote.

The most extreme of the Republicans live in their own illusionary and shadow-filled Plato’s Cave and convince themselves of the normality of their regressive visions and black/white and either/or world. The cave-dwellers collude together to fleece the naive people who follow them. And many pseudoinnocent Republican voters seem happy to get hustled over and over again by the same false promises.

Many pseudoinnocent Democrats believe if they could get those who yearn for a return to the past to understand their vision for the future, those people would change. This was, I believe, a problem of President Obama’s: He didn’t seem to understand how serious and base his enemies in Congress and in the Republican Party were. I don’t mean people who disagreed with him on philosophy or policy. I mean those who wanted to harm him personally. He lacked the ruthless streak a leader needs to deal with those who hated him and wanted to destroy his presidency.

Early in Obama’s presidency, I wrote to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “What are you people doing? You make nice with people who want to kill you!” How did that approach work out for America with immigration, climate change and income inequality and so many other issues?

Republican and Democratic voters need to awaken and see reality as it is. Villains and injustice exist. They do not respond to argument and common sense; they respond only to power. We live surrounded by them in, perhaps, more insidious ways than ever before. Naïve and indifferent people, who make up a significant percentage of the adult population in America, allow the scoundrels to have their way.

We need to make wise moral judgments. It is wrong and irresponsible not to. We need to judge our politicians and hold them accountable with our votes.

Serious about her enemies or not, Hillary Clinton has battled the dark side of the Republican Party for decades with strength and resolve. She has gained wisdom and insight.

Americans need a battle-scarred warrior to lead them in today’s dark world.