Monthly Archives: November 2016

Three Guys in the Desert….

Below is a column I started in December 2015. A year ago, the thought had already entered my mind, “What if Donald actually gets elected president?” I haven’t changed the original text but will denote where it ended. 

Three guys in the desert; an Italian, a Jew, and a……………

No, I am not to tell you an old, bad, and politically incorrect joke.

Recently I was on my annual tour of London’s finest Pubs and Dining Establishments. Mainly, I was there to catch up with friends whom I now live an ocean away from.

There’s always lots of interesting talk. This time some of the conversation was different, and far more personal than it usually is.

This was especially true of conversations with two of my oldest and closest friends. Call us three guys in London; a Jew, a Tamil, and a Muslim.

Each of us has the immense good fortune of being educated, affluent, and a resident of one of the “great” 21st Century Liberal Democracies.

We each are native born to the nations our ancestors fled to and highly assimilated. I would go as far as to say that the religions/ethnicities described above are not much more than cultural descriptors to us. We are not actively religious, nor do we believe that ones religion or ethnicity is important although we are acutely aware that many people do not share that view.

That being said, none of us feel that where we come from hurts us in anyway. Heck, my rabbinical circumcision made me the member of what appeared to be the majority group in finance.

As it turns out two of us have married outside our faiths. I am happy to say that each of us is the proud father of two children. And this is where our conversations ultimately focused. Because if we are each not religious, our children are barely aware that they have a religion. Our children are completely assimilated. As a Jew, I know the history of what has happened when we have assimilated in the past. I also know that the world moves much more quikcly than ever before.

Recently the ascension of the “Donald” in Republican presidential field has made me a bit queasy. Its not that I am afraid of his being president, the math tells me that he wont be, but rather the fact that he is giving voice to many things that are better left unsaid.

So whether its Hillary’s bathroom habits, his budding bromance with Putin, his banning immigration and deporting Muslims, or his deep foreign policy skills, it all feels a bit Fascist and familiar to me. What scares me is that now that some of our public taboos have been broken, the next time a public figure utters the same things we’ll be a bit less shocked, and so on.

Also, it is clear that the “Donald” is not the only person with these views. I know that times are tough, people are being displaced in many ways and don’t see the way forward. It is easy for a politician to leverage these fears into political gain. But where does it lead.

So my daughters don’t see themselves as Jewish although they do understand

 

November 14, 2016

 So maybe I was paranoid, or maybe I felt that Brexit and Trump were coming. If I had, I would have made a bunch of money on that double.

What I was getting at a year ago is that the three of us and our families live in a bubble of highly educated, affluent, and urbane people who seemingly had put the tribalism, ignorance, and hatreds of the past behind them.

The past six months has challenged if not yet shattered our perceptions. Sure, we are still safe in our bubbles but let’s just say we have a sense of heightened awareness. Here’s why.

It’s not about me. I know who I am, where I come from and all of the history as do my friends. It’s about our children. My daughters don’t really identify with my religion. They are thankfully unaware of the fact that history tells ME that it is possible that they could become endangered and quickly. My London friends are aware of the same thing.

So what can we do about this? While none of wants to scare our children or limit them, we must say something. In my mind there’s three things that we all need to do.

First, make sure to explain to your children who they are, where they come from, and their history. Tell them that their ancestors history need not define them but that because they are not members of the majority group that they must always be vigilant and aware of events occurring around them and that they must be ready to act to protect themselves.

Second, tell them to be proud of who they are and to stand up for themselves. Let them know that bullies only thrive when they are allowed to run unchallenged. Hear something that sounds wrong? Confront it, bring it to the attention of others.

Third and perhaps this is the most important. We must be better than those who discriminate! Bullying of others is bullying of us! Those of us who are not part of the dominant group must not be thankful when someone else is being attacked in anyway for who they are.

So last Thursday, I broached the topic with my 15 year old daughter. She was extremely upset that Hillary had lost and what that meant for women both now and for the future. My daughter has a well-tuned sense of indignance and knows her history pretty well. The one thing she isn’t consciously aware of is the fact that if things go wrong she is a Jew. At first she was frustrated with me for not realizing that “being a woman is worse”. At one point I told her that there are many ways in which women are mistreated but that it was unlikely that she would need to flee her own country because she is a woman.

We ultimately talked about the need for awareness without fear, the need for kindness without being a pushover, the need to lead your life as a citizen of the world without limits all the while knowing that it could change.

I’m glad to have had the conversation but so sad that I had to have it. Next up, my younger daughter.

I’ll be off to London in a few weeks, I wonder what my friends have been thinking/talking about.

I wonder, how many of you have had the same thoughts? Are you doing anything?

When the Past is Better than the Future

Blaming others for Hillary Clinton’s loss feels good but is likely to lead us to repeat our mistakes. We must look at the result and learn.

I, along with virtually everyone I know has spent the past 48 hours banging their head against the wall trying to understand how we have ended up with President Trump.

“People are racist.”

“People are stupid.”

“Everyone hates women.”

“The FBI stole the election.”

“Hillary was a terrible candidate.”

While I am certain that we can find some element of truth in each of the above, I believe that these are all traps for any of us who wish to ultimately reverse what has just happened.

Donald Trump has succeeded in convincing (almost) half of the electorate that the past is a better option than the future. This is a complete break with all of American History. Remember Reagan’s City on the Hill? Now we have Drain the Swamp. I assume that’s where some of us will be living.

Trump is loved for exclaiming that “Clean” Coal is a superior option to renewable energy. That Flexible Spending Accounts, which Paul Ryan conceived in grade school, are superior to the Affordable Care Act, which insures 20 million Americans, at least some of who must have voted for Trump. That not giving woman a right to choose their reproductive fate is better than to allow that freedom. That restricting trade is better than free trade.

How did Donald pull this off? Remember not only did he win the presidency but he essentially pulled off a insider take over of the Republican Party AND relegated the Democratic Party to the hinterlands for what could be a long time. Simply put, there is no precedence in American political history for the Donald.

I have come to believe that love him or hate him our President-Elect is the greatest marketer of our time along with Steve Jobs. Jobs had the ability to anticipate a need that no one else saw and then filled that need with one beautiful product after another.

What Trump has done is to tap into a feeling shared by millions of Americans that everyone else had missed.

He did this by listening to those that others ignored. He did this by understanding that while data and strategy may matter for crafting and implementing solutions, it’s USELESS for making people feel loved and cared for. After food, clothing, and shelter, the most important element in life is the need to feel loved, cared about, and important to others.

Trump showed what all leaders know they need to show to be successful. He showed empathy to a large group of people who felt unloved and unnoticed. He not only articulated their pain, he convinced them that he felt it and was motivated to help. This is what engendered loyalty that proved to be unshakable in the face of things that the rest of us found to be disqualifying.

As a comparison, while we all believed Hillary to be the better candidate, most of us believed this on an intellectual rather than emotional basis.

What’s done is done.

If Democrats want to have any chance of leading again, they must understand and accept why they lost. While the above is not the only reason, it is a key and one that will not allow us to blame others for our setback. It is up to us to adjust to our new world.

We must do this now. Democrats cannot wait until 2018 to lay the groundwork.

What are Americans craving but not receiving from us (and the Republicans). Where can government help and where should it stay away? What is important to you?

I firmly believe that Democrats must find a candidate who oozes empathy and not just in the eyes of their traditional voters but to as large a constituency as possible. This empathy needs to be authentic because, it’s likely that the Donald will ultimately disappoint his constituents and trust will be in even shorter supply. This means no technocrats or strategy wonks need apply. Not that we don’t need those folks, I just don’t believe that they are electable at this point.

The Dem’s bench looks pretty thin. Any ideas?