Friday, March 18, 2016

My Thoughts on Trumpism

The unease and admitted fear is palpable in conversations with others, in real life and in social media. That is understandable. Many have not learned the lessons of the past, but some have. There are two primary candidates for the Republican nomination, both of whom have offered racist solutions to the world in which we live. Both want to kick out ineligible aliens including children who’ve known no other life but that in America. Both paint Islam in terms of “Islamic terrorism” and where one has called for banning all Muslims to our country, the other is not much better.

Donald Trump takes it a step further. He calls for attacks on all sorts of people, and ignores every tenant of constitutional protection. Consider this quote from Adolph Hitler in his work Mein Kampf:

1. Keep the dogma simple. Make only 1 or 2 points.
2. Be forthright and powerfully direct. Speak only in the telling or ordering mode.

3. As much as possible, reduce concepts down into stereotypes which are black and white.

4. Speak to people’s emotions and stir them constantly.

5. Use lots of repetition; repeat your points over and over again.

6. Forget literary beauty, scientific reasoning, balance, or novelty.

7. Focus solely on convincing people and creating zealots.

8. Find slogans which can be used to drive the movement forward.

Now watch any speech by Donald Trump. It was said by an ex wife that he kept a copy of Mein Kampf by the bed. Okay, that’s okay. I’ve got a copy on my Kindle because it is important to know history and the lessons for us today. But copying his blueprint is quite another thing.

Let me address the remarks by people saying they are afraid. That’s okay, and understandable. However we cannot let that fear dominate us or stand in the way of standing strong in the face of this assault on our democratic sensibilities by pure racism and hate. As FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Years ago, I did a multiyear study of the Holocaust. What I learned was that what happened in Germany could happen anywhere. Certain factors were needed.

So what about us? Could it happen here? Consider this. After WWI, thanks to a Great Depression and crippling reparations imposed by the allies combined to leave ordinary families uneasy and quick to seek a strong leader who would bring them something better. Hitler was that person. Look at our current society. We are moving out of the Great Recession, but wages are less, and fewer benefits are offered. Money has been focused among the very rich at the expense of all the rest of us. Citizens United created a system where our politicians fear their corporate donors more than the populace who elects them, and their votes no longer represent the people. Now Donald Trump would not improve that one iota, but he is able to play on the fears and insecurity of these people.

Hitler once was said to have stated that had there not been a Jewish people, he would have needed to invent them. Lest we forget, it was not only Jews he targeted. Slavs, gays, and many others were utilized to stoke the fears and hates of his followers. Hmm Mexicans being called rapists and killers and his so called war on Islam… sound familiar?

Now I am not saying he is Hitler. I am saying that he stokes the same fears of the other, in his effort to be the strong man savior for all who are afraid. He’s a bully, and quite content to extend violence to get his way. We may feel fear, but the only way for anyone to deal with a bully, especially one who would emulate Hitler, is directly. We also need to remember, just as with the early followers of Hitler, that not all were bad people. They just wanted a decent shot at life when they voted him Chancellor of Germany. Many paid the ultimate price for that early endorsement, made possible by their willingness to overlook the bigotry and hate being offered up by their leader. They allowed themselves to be swayed to believe that really was the root of their problems. Many asked later, what we could have been done to prevent what happened. Together, hands outstretched, they ignored the obvious and for that paid a massive price.

As a child I was bullied. I learned the hard way that bullies had to be confronted, even when there was more of them. We confront this bully with truth, with love, and if it goes too far, then perhaps by violence. I pray not. I’ve watched black people be assaulted and he defends it. I’ve seen other black and Muslim people not allowed to come to his rallies simply because they were black or Muslim. He constantly encourages violence and laments the “good old days.” Does he mean the good old days back in the 20’s when his father apparently was arrested in conjunction with a brawl involving a KKK dispute? The fifties when everything was just wonderful unless you were non-white or poor? Yes he is selling folks a bill of goods. But if they buy in…. well, that must not happen. Last I heard, his followers were forming a group to “defend” the candidate against protesters. Perhaps they can call them Brown Shirts? Stand strong my friends, and just respond “Oh hell no!!!”

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Tribute to My Friend: Andrew Adair Rebman

Today, one of my best friends ever is being memorialized following his all too soon passing. I cannot be there in body sadly, but my spirit is with all those who loved this incredible person I called friend.

I first met Andrew in the early nineties. This was before I had fully transitioned, and I had moved to Westheimer Square Apts in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston with my beloved Skip. One day Skip walks into the apartment and says, "I just met this cute guy outside and he seems really nice.

I laughed, and said, "Well invite him to dinner!" He did and a life long friendship ensued. Understand, we were considerably older. We were in our mid/late forties and he was 18. We had an amazing visit, and sat and visited for hours. From then on we would hang out, and watch the drama play out (often we were part of that drama) in this amazing community of people. He always threatened to write a novel about this place. I ultimately did. It really was like Houston's version of Barbary Lane. He loved to tease Skip, watching the two of them go at each other laughing as they did and we used to do long walks together. It was the prequel to his photography style which would come later. Skip could not always make those because of his rheumatoid arthritis, but when we got back, we'd sit around and just talk about... well... everything within our hearts.

Some memories from Westheimer Square:

My beloved Skip became ill in '97 and passed away soon after. It truly was my dark night of the soul, and as i tried to sort it all out, one constant was my friend Andrew. We would talk, and sometimes he'd just sit and listen while I poured out my grief. I had lost so much, family, my beloved as my transition had exacted a heavy toll. But there consistently was Andrew, ever the true friend. He allowed me to share my inner thoughts and he shared his own.

I met Robin in '99 and we moved to Minneapolis soon after. That did not mean the end of a friendship however. Every few weeks he'd call, and we would talk on the phone literally until one of us had no juice left in the phone battery. You know, it's been interesting since we learned of Andrew's passing, how many people I've connected with who I already knew through our long conversations.

I remember when he came to visit in Minneapolis some years back. He was an accomplished photographer by then, and I did it as a hobby. We walked all over Minneapolis,taking photos, comparing notes and telling our stories in the coffee shops, and even speaking out loud how important our friendship was. How I treasured our time together that year.

After the visit, we continued our friendship via social media and phone. He stayed so busy, so we understood that it was best for him to call me. Which he did faithfully for all these years. There is no one else on this earth with whom I could talk so deeply and completely. Perhaps such friendships are rare. They certainly are for me. About two weeks before Andrew passed, I got a post via FB and he was curious as to my response. I sent it, and expected to hear back, but did not. It also was past due for one of our phone conversations. Then Gina (his stepmom) got ahold of me and told me my friend was gone.

Andrew, I'm going to miss you so very much! I'm getting older now, and my own time will be coming soon enough. What I know is that the days to come will be a little less bright, and I will glance from time to time at my phone and know you won't be calling anymore. I will grieve, and then life will regain some sort of normalcy, but that normalcy will be some shade of beige or grey, for the aurora formed by your presence among us has faded away as you passed through death's door. All that remains are the memories and the tears.

Finally, Andrew, I've no idea if there is anything beyond that door. But on the chance there is, I have a couple of requests. Those who knew them will understand. Lionel? If you see him, kick his butt for me. After the way he treated Merlyn, he's got it coming. Caroline, give her a big hug. For the readers of this blog, she's the cute girl in the photo above with the kids closet to the viewer. Like you Andrew, she left us way too soon. She's likely dancing ballet among the stars in my mythos of a world beyond. Then there's Skip. You'd know what to say to Skip. It's comforting to know that the two of you would be exchanging barbs, laughing all the while as you wait for me to get there. Rest in power my friend. Rest in power...