No Thank You, Trump America

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It was quiet in front of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC on election night.

It saddens me to see so much racism and bigotry erupt within days of Donald Trump’s election. Even more disgusting is the way Washington insiders and business luminaries, people who fought so hard against Trump, have flip flopped and suddenly support his presidency, essentially ignoring the intense xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny we have witnessed over the past year. Of course, these people have political and business interests at stake.

I do not. Even if I did have interests at stake, I would not sacrifice my principles and would continue to fight Trump.

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A woman texts and clutches the fence separating the White House and Lafayette Park on election night.

And yet Trumpers say, Give him a chance. We must come together and support him, they say. Worse, some are insistent that people should not protest.

No thank you, Trump America.

Though Trumpers keep trying to stymie public dissatisfaction with the election, more and more protests break out. And with good reason. Telling people to be silent and endure is the beginning of a fascist state. Silence the opposition, and force them to get in line.

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No thank you, Trump America.

I have experienced similar push back every time I have published a photo from election night or a protest photo depicting a scene that is not pro-Trump. The below photo received an extra amount of angst and misogyny on Instagram and in a private Facebook group. In other cases I have been trolled online by pro-Trumpers telling me to move to a different country, or shut up, or to read the bible, or some other form of bullying.

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In all cases I have simply deleted their comments. This is not dialogue, this is more xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny. It borders on fascism and violates protesters’ civil rights.

Not My President

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A despondent woman outside of the White House on election night.

This hateful orange buffoon now elected president is someone I must suffer. The acts of the people he has inspired are Deplorable. I will not give him an open mind because he has given me enough data to make a conclusive decision about his character. He is not my president.

It is unfortunate that so many Americans felt this disenfranchised that they were desperate enough to take this risk on. Our political parties were so weak that they could not come together and meet our country’s needs.

But Trump is a liar. He has lied about bringing back manufacturing jobs, building the wall, kicking out immigrants, and making fat cats like himself pay more taxes. Even if the Trump risk pays off — which it won’t — the impact on civil liberties will create a dark stain on America’s fiber for decades.

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Protest in San Antonio.

After all of Donald Trump’s behavior and deceitful acts over the past year, and continuing lies and backtracking, he needs to earn my respect, not the other way around. His election has destroyed the prestige of the Presidency. Until he behaves his way into a more mindful and respectful disposition for a significant period of time, I will continue to assess Trump as a dangerous narcissist that hoodwinked America.

At the same time, he will be in power for four years. It is what it is. My best recourse is to fight for the protection of civil liberties, and continue to actively seek new and better politicians than what either party is currently offering.

We Must Be Vigilant

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San Antonio protesters.

When George W. Bush won the oval office there was unease in Washington, but things settled in relatively quickly. Then 9-11 hit, and the rest was history. By the time Iraq occurred any pushback against W. was labelled as Un-American, Liberal, or Un-Patriotic. Eventually people became outspoken in spite of W.

Donald Trump and his presidency do not deserve the opportunity that W. got. I have seen more swastikas in the past week than I have in the past decade. I have seen more reports of hate crimes in the past week than I have in the past year, and that’s in spite of Trump’s caustic presidential campaign and the many reports of police violence against African Americans.

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Protest in front of the White House on election night.

Islamic Americans are wondering if it is their turn to flee. Mexican Americans — some who have been here for generations — and other Latin American immigrants — legal and illegal — fear the potential impact on their lives. Women wonder if they will have to fight off pimply white males assaulting them. On and on it goes. It is time to stand up to hate crime at every opportunity.

Trump and that small group of supporters who are using this election as an endorsement of xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny cannot be given mulligan after mulligan. We will lose everything that makes America free and inclusive if we allow that to happen.

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Two men waiting for a Hillary party that never happened in front of the White House.

A word of caution to those who disagree with Trump: We cannot fight hate with hate. Violence destroys the message. Protestors have invoked the swastika as a method of protesting against Trump. I have been the subject of persecution in my past. My relatives in Europe flee-ed the Nazi threat. This is not a casual reference. In fact, it is a hurtful one, one that inspires as much fear and hate in protest as it seeks to combat. The more mindful we can be about our use of symbolism, the more impactful our message will be.

We must say no, we must raise our voice, but we have to take on the principles of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Peaceful protest is the way. We cannot hurt others to save ourselves. This is something that we must repeat over and over again. Civil disobedience must invoke peaceful change.

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Protest in San Antonio.

Given the amount of vitriol I have already received from hateful pro-Trump supporters, I have closed comments on this blog post. Please continue the conversation with me on social networks.

How We Become What We Hate

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Featured image by Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump represents a significant part of America‘s belief system. Many people will object to that statement, but nevertheless you cannot ignore the numbers. The continued polling success — granted a plurality in the GOP party, not a majority — show us what this country can become, something that many of us hate.

Donald Trump’s continued success despite his frequent, outrageous, racist, and demeaning commentary mirrors the way an Americans ethos. It reveals a belligerent stance towards the political establishment and reactionary views towards terrorist attacks, threats and economic uncertainty. And his success also reveals a fear of people who are different than us. Perhaps this is the ugly side of America, the side that we are ashamed of, the angry fearful side that reacts out of frustration and ignorance.

How we got here is a long political process best documented by a subject matter expert instead of me. Yet the discussion of becoming what we hate is something that I am fascinated with, a topic that forms a central arc in my novels, The Fundamentalists.

How Do We Become What We Hate?

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The fear of becoming what we hate is a legitimate one. How many of us groan when a loved one says we are just like our father or mother? Of course, this analogy offers a chuckle compared to the larger issue, becoming something that as a person or a society that we despise.

No one sets out in life to be villain or a scoundrel. No one wants to be the author of policies that spawn economic hardship, death, and destruction. Yet rationalization is a tricky devil. The stairway to hell is lined with small steps.

Little decisions empower great harm. It’s never one decision that turns the tide towards darkness, rather a few of them. And then a few more, and then the next thing you know, wars are declared, recessions and depressions hit the economy. We have been here before, and recently.

Pscyhological studies show that when you put good people in bad situations, bad things happen. Decisions are made to protect oneself, or to fulfill order. Character and moral issues are rarely considered on a macro level or for their long-term impact. If they are, the pressure of the immediate situation or the fear of further difficulties takes precedence.

Leadership and Fear

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In Perseverance, Book Two of the Fundamentalists, my characters — the village’s leadership — face a difficult situation, an invading force driven by fundamentalist hate. The villagers make decisions to survive. Blood spills. Families break. Heroes die.

Those same decisions challenge the leadership’s character, and create a situation where they believe to avoid another war that they need to build up their defenses and strike back. These decisions set up Hypocrisy, Book Three of The Fundamentalists. I suppose the title says it all. Since the central character in the novel is a six year old girl, and Soleil just turned five, you will have to wait a while for Book Three.

Leadership is often confused with taking actions and doing things to protect the status quo. When war is waged out of fear of future nebulous dangers, it is rarely a good thing. I hope we learned that with the last Iraq war. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz supporters demonstrate that a good portion of America have not learned that lesson.

One of my favorite Republicans is Colin Powell. He once said, “War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.”

A plurality driven by fear does not equate to a majority. But it can force us to examine our character. It can also force us to become what we hate.

What do you think?

The Bulgarian Principle

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On Tuesday night, I sat at the Livingston table for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s 100th anniversary. As I blogged a few weeks ago, the ADL was started to fight antisemitism by my great grand uncle Sigmund Livingston. The keynote speaker was his excellency Rosen Plevneliev, president, Republic of Bulgaria.

Part of the evening included a retelling of Bulgaria’s resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II, an effort that saved its population of 48,000 Jews. Bulgaria saved these lives, not by direct conflict, but through red tape dallying and eventually exposing Nazi demands to export the Jews through the American media.

This commitment to basic human rights in the face of the greatest evil and bully we have seen in modern times just stuns the mind.

Frankly, if you care about change, if you believe that people can make a difference, this sterling example of principle stands out. It’s what we live for, a beautiful testimony to what unwillingness to yield to wrongness can achieve.

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Cherry Blossoms for Tolerance

Last week we talked about antisemitism, hate and intolerance, and this week Boston suffered a brutal terrorist attack, an act of hate. Then we witnessed the fallout online with the autotweet debates, which took some pretty uncivil turns. Today, let’s focus on beauty and positive action.

Every year I make the journey down to the tidal basin to visually record the brief yet stunning presence of the cherry tree blossoms. These are some of my more popular photos when I share them, usually marking the arrival of Spring

This year not one, but two of my photos are featured in Yahoo’s 2013 Cherry Blossoms Galore photo set. You can see all of my 2013 shots here.

Today, you will find a collection of 10 of my cherry blossom photos from the past five years as curated by Jess Ostroff. Please enjoy their simple beauty.

If you want to go further and take action against hate, I’ve installed the Cafepress PressIt plugin, which allows you to scroll over any of these images, click on the “PressIt” button, and buy something with your preferred cherry blossom image. I receive 10% of the sale, and will donate all of my proceeds to the Anti-Defamation League, which per my antisemitism post, is a cause that fights racial intolerance, and was started by my great grand uncle Sigmund Livingston. To further incentivize you to make a purchase for tolerance today, I will match up to $1000 in proceeds.
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Antisemitism in the United States

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Last week I received two off-color remarks about Jews. It didn’t surprise me, I’ve experienced periodic antisemitism throughout my life in the United States.

Perhaps last week’s remarks were spawned by my beard, a salty rabbinical looking thing that I usually shave. Maybe they had nothing to do with me at all. It really doesn’t matter what spawned them, they revealed an ignorance that’s existed through millenia.

I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia called Glenside between the ages of 2-8. We were the only Jewish family in an Irish Catholic neighborhood.

Things did not fair well for us. Our cars were vandalized, a swastika was painted on our door, our house egged periodically, and yes, my sister and I were bullied ceaselessly by neighborhood children, our supposed friends, who teased and beat us regularly, turning trips to the playground into an anxiety ridden game of Russian Roulette.
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Haters Hate and I Choose to Listen

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Image by pixel8

Haters gonna hate.

It’s what top bloggers and community managers say when they interpret criticism to be nasty and inappropriate.

In the case of trolls that deliver aggressive comments that border on threats or worse, you have to agree with them. This post is about the haters, the ones that deliver criticism in harsh ways that irks the recipient, but doesn’t necessarily equate to trolldom.

Brands and bloggers alike need to listen to harsh critics. Sometimes these people are right in spite of their methods.

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