Saturday, June 03, 2017

One Sad Week


That’s how President Trump frequently ends his tweets.   And if this past week could be summarized in a tweet, we’d surely end it with that same word – thanks, in large part, to President Trump himself.   

Admittedly, my view of this week is colored by my personal life.  The family matriarch, who is now 95 years and 10 months old, suffered major blows to her health.   Every day after work, I’ve made a bee-line to either a hospital or a rehab facility and watched her fight to recover.   It’s inspiring to be the son of such a tough resilient woman.  But it’s also gut-wrenching to see a loved one labor to perform basic functions – like trying to sit up, stand up, and walk a few feet. 

One of the things I like to do with my mom is turn on the TV and watch the news.  The poor woman must be convinced that she’s totally losing it, because the reports have been truly unbelievable -- and not just impossible to believe, but incredibly sad. 

First, we had the sorry spectacle of Tiger Woods, an athlete I’ve supported passionately ever since he left Stanford and joined the PGA Tour.  Just last week, we read that his back surgery gave him “instant nerve relief” and saw him say that “I haven’t felt this good in years.”  But this past Monday, he was found asleep at the wheel, unable to walk a straight line, and slurring his speech.  He blamed it on a cocktail of pain killers and, indeed, the tests showed that he hadn’t had a drop of alcohol.  But it’s difficult to believe that he wasn’t bullshitting fans like me when he raved about how well he was feeling last week.  Once again, Tiger has proven himself to be someone you can never trust when he speaks to his fan base.  Leaving aside whatever mess he has made of his physical or psychological health, his consistent lack of honesty has been worthy of a politician.

The next spectacle to chronicle was provided to us by the boisterous, self-obsessed comedienne, Kathy Griffin.  Somehow, she decided it was funny to depict the President of the United States as a severed head covered with blood.  Funny?  No.  Juvenile, disgusting, contemptuous, and creepy?  Clearly.  Unlike Tiger Woods, who can aptly be called a golfing genius, Kathy Griffin lacks any discernable talent – other than the ability to self-promote.  Fortunately, it looks like Griffin’s 15 minutes are just about up.  Even for a comedienne, she crossed the line.  And if you don’t agree, just imagine what you would think of a conservative “comic” who turned the first black president, Barack Obama, into a severed, bloody head.  Griffen has stooped to a lower level than even the worst of Obama’s most racist critics.  And that, indeed, is sad.

True to her narcissism, Kathy Griffin isn’t leaving the scene easily.  She’s blaming other people for her self-inflicted wound.  According to Griffin, “there’s a bunch of old white guys trying to silence me and I’m just here to say that it’s wrong.”  Actually, what is “wrong” is when a person doesn’t have the class to say “I screwed up big time” and leave it at that.  That’s called taking responsibility.   It’s a lesson that Hillary Clinton could also use a little help in.  If Monday belonged to Tiger and Tuesday belonged to Griffin, Wednesday belonged to Hillary.  Speaking at Recode’s Code Conference in California, Clinton said that "I take responsibility for every decision I make -- but that's not why I lost" She then went on to say that “I'm now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party," Clinton said. "It was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, non-existent, wrong. I had to inject money into it -- the DNC -- to keep it going."

Personally, I’m getting dizzy trying to figure out exactly who Hillary wants us to blame for her inability to defeat a reality TV star with a record-low approval rating.  I thought the fault belonged to Comey.  Or Russia.  Or the media. Now it’s the DNC.  She apparently believes that everyone is at fault other than the candidate who, in a change election, never explained what she felt compelled to change, and who was so cocky about winning the upper Midwest that she barely bothered to campaign there.

If Hillary’s latest outburst wasn’t sad enough, when CNN interviewed the chair of the DNC and invited him to respond to Hillary’s attacks, he repeatedly refused to do so.  Essentially, he gave the interviewer the old Washington Dodge -- something to the effect of, “I want to focus on the future, not look at the past.”  So, my friends, the new Democratic Party is going to look a lot like the old one – big on smiles, small on candor.  Kind of like a Tiger Woods press conference. 

And that brings me to Thursday.  That’s the day when President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords.  It’s also the day when Vice President Pence said, on Fox News, that “for some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world."

How can I respond to that?   Is this really just an issue for those on the “left”?   Well, perhaps it is.  After all, in 2012, in his Democratic National Convention speech, President Obama devoted only about 20 seconds to the issue. Lord knows that the media hasn’t seemed to be terribly interested in climate change.  It isn’t nearly as sexy as topics such as terrorism, police killings or plane crashes.  But let’s not kid ourselves – according to people with PhDs, climate change is easily the gravest source of danger on planet Earth, and I’m not just talking about environmental dangers.  What this country did on Thursday isn’t just sad – it’s devastating.  And now it’s time for those of us on the “left” -- and the center -- to figure out a way to make the powers-that-be care about this issue once and for all.  We owe it to Mother Nature, to our children, and to our own legacies.

So, my friends, this has been one depressing week.  But things had better get better, and I mean quickly.  Next week, the Empathic Rationalist will be on vacation as I head up to Philadelphia for my older daughter Hannah’s rabbinical ordination.  None of this, even my beloved mother’s health setback, can get in my way of enjoying Hannah’s incredible accomplishment.  So ... I pray that this week, happy stories will replace the sad stories of this last week.  Maybe we’ll see some amazing feats of athleticism in the French Open or in the NBA Finals.  Maybe we’ll see a politician or Hollywood star actually assume some responsibility, rather than blaming others or dodging questions.  Or maybe we’ll just see a slow news week during which we can relax and re-charge our batteries.  Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be so bad.  In fact, after this past week, anything would be an improvement.

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