Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Let Freedom Ring

When I awakened this morning, no one stood over my bed with a gun threatening me.  Nobody growled at me to get up and get to work, or to walk, or crawl, or beg for food.  The air  kissed my skin with the pleasant caress of a mechanical chill.  I knew that there was a small chance that my old dog had peed on the hardwood floor in the front bedroom, but otherwise nothing the least bit unpleasant would challenge me.  The fridge holds plenty of food; a full bag of coffee beans sits on the counter; and regardless of how I might want the day to develop, I will be comfortable, clean, and probably a little bit lazy.

After all, it's a holiday.  July 4th.  Independence Day.  Our nation's birthday, when we celebrate the momentous decision to divest ourselves from British rule and start this grand experiment.

I slide into my red fuzzy slippers and don my zebra robe.  Tucking my new Android into a little pouch to keep it safe until the new case arrives, I move to the second of my two bathrooms to relieve myself in an ADA-compliant toilet, wash my hands in a little IKEA sink, and take the medicine which sustains my life.  Or at least, beats back the virus which makes my life less comfortable than it would be if I didn't pay a grand each month for insurance which covers 99.99% of the $4,500.00 that the medication would otherwise cost.  (Math challenges me; don't judge that fake percentage.  I have a co-pay.  What's the ratio between $12.00 and $4,500.00?  You figure it.)

After de-activating the alarm, I descend to the first floor and greet the little old epileptic rescue dog who shakes her groggy head.  We make our wobbly way to the back of the house where I release her to go commune with the lady bugs in the grass.  Then I flick on the gas burner and start a kettle.  The smell of coffee emanates from the grinder and then, stronger, beneath the water as I pour.  Rich brown flows into the carafe.  I turn on the warmer and reach for a mug.

I open my tablet, scroll through messages and social media, and then open the New York Times app.  My stomach quivers a little at the news of discord with China and North Korea.  I don't trust the current administration's erratic behavior. I don't understand how a president can spend his time blasting comedians and journalists when serious situations demand his attention.  That behavior frightens me.  I remember the jokes about Bill Clinton having affairs, and how we would all prefer a sexually satisfied guy with his hands on the nuclear button to one with nothing to hold him here.  What the hell, a less cheerful guy might say, as he sends us all to eternal damnation.

I wonder if our current president might be so careless, not because of any personal discontent but because of petulance, arrogance, or an insatiable need to prove his superiority.

I look at a few articles about New Jersey's pathetic governor, a court ruling barring the EPA from an abuse of its discretion, and a telephone call between the U. S. and Chinese presidents.  I pause to chuckle at the quotes around the legal terms of art in the EPA ruling.  I've never seen "arbitrary" and "capricious" separated like that.  The writer must not have consulted an administrative law attorney.

My smugness lasts only until I return to the article on the president's call with China.  I'm suddenly reminded of a lecture in graduate school.  The professor was talking about the  nature of true statesmanship.  That's what we need in leaders, he underscored.  Men and women who don't care about their own reputations, who work towards an end without regard for praise, or power, or personal gain.  He hesitated, seemingly reflecting on the seriousness of the situation, wanting to be certain that we understood.  If men and women serving our nation do not put aside their own ambition, we cannot trust them to protect the rest of us.

I gently set the tablet  on the table, and take my mug of coffee to the front porch.  My Stars & Stripes moves on the rising wind.  It hangs from one pillar.  On the other, I have a Rainbow flag.  It honors those who died at the Pulse in Orlando, but I also intend for everyone to see that our nation includes all of us.  I have a sign in my window welcoming everyone:  Gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender, gender-fluid, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Muslim, native-born and immigrant.  I tried to be as inclusive as possible.  I edited the sign three times before I felt that anyone reading it would understand that they, too, would find safe harbor at my home.

The state of our country worries me.  The only problems which I face each day can be considered "first-world problems".   I'm one of the lucky ones.  I'm not rich; far from it.  But even if I fret about paying my bills every month, I know that I can find a way.  A significant portion of the United States cannot boast the luxury in which I live; far from it.  One in five children faces serious hunger in this country.  One in eight persons  in the world doesn't get enough food each day.  One million children in the world die each year from hunger-related conditions.

As I sit in my rocking chair (one of eight that I own) on the front porch, I hear Janis Joplin's voice.  Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.  I take the new Android from its makeshift pouch and toggle between applications.  I see an e-mail from someone in my Rotary district commenting on the great experiences that we had attending the Rotary International Convention last month.  A friend writes about her new job.  Amazon wants to know if I enjoyed my shopping experience yesterday.  You bet, I think.  I got a phone case for 1/5 of what my cell phone company wanted me to pay for the same item.

First-world problems.  Thirty-four million children on Earth suffer from severe malnutrition, while I grumble that I had to pay a thirty-dollar activation fee to replace the phone that I dropped in one of the two clothes-washing machines that I own.  One in six children in developing nations is underweight due to inadequate nutrition while I have to count calories every day to keep from gaining a few unwanted pounds.  This dichotomy surpasses irony and lands me in a putrid puddle of self-loathing and disgust.

I do what I can.  A sum automatically deducts from my account each month to help Rotary International with its quest to stamp out Polio once and for all.  When we've gone three years without a single case, we'll switch to another major cause.  I will contribute to that effort, as well.  I fill a few bags with canned goods for each food drive that comes through my neighborhood and put out a food bank barrel in the lobby of my office building at Christmas time.

I'm not rich.  I'm not even "well-to-do".  I fall solidly in middle-class, with a meager retirement account and a modest home.  But I know how much more I have than a humongous portion of humanity.  I live in freedom; I can work harder and earn more. I can drive my car with a full tank of gas.  I can pay to have my grey hair highlighted; and I can go to a restaurant once a week and dine on food cooked by someone else, served on plates which others will wash.  At the end of each month, I might grumble that I blew the budget, but the lights stay on, and the television blares its reality shows, and I can download a book to read on one of five computing devices with which I amuse myself.

It's America's birthday.  Two-hundred forty-one years of this grand experiment.  I've lived through almost sixty-two of those years.  I've learned to value freedom.  I joke about being on an FBI list for my liberal rantings, and that joke might cut a little closer to the bone these days.  But I still believe that my freedom to rant, to vote, and to go about my daily life will be protected by the dictates of the federal constitution which memorializes the social compact of our nation.  That protection might be threatened by the current administration, but so far, it holds.

However, this truth I know:  My freedom means nothing unless I use my unfettered condition to help those who don't share the luxury of a full belly and an easy sleep.  We must remain free, but we also must use the benefits of our freedom to reach behind us to others so much less fortunate than we.  We must not slam the doors on those who turn to us in their desperate hour, whether they are refugees from war or the children in our city streets whose drug-addicted mothers cannot feed them.

Let freedom ring.  Let it peal throughout the land.  But let it serve as a call to all of us -- as a warning, as a summons, as a caution, as a challenge.  Freedom should not be taken as a license to luxuriate in comfort but as an opportunity to contribute to the society which affords us the chance to acquire those  luxuries.  As long as children lay down their heads at night in misery --  hungry, cold, and sick -- we dare not rest.  We cannot turn our backs or shrug our silk-clad shoulders.  We must not squander the freedom which we value.  Rather, we must learn to share its bounty.  Then, and only then, will the bells of freedom ring most purely.


Sunday, February 5, 2017


Maybe it's the fever, the fact that I have been awake since 3:00 a.m., or my natural grumpiness. But I think America faces a daunting threat to our national progress and I do not care who knows how I feel.

Hear me now:  I totally get that I'm a virtual failure as a woman.  I can honestly say without any hesitation that I've never engendered unqualified fidelity in a romantic partner; that I don't own high heels; that I do not know how to use make-up; and that the only reason I ever get my hair "done" is that my secretary schedules appointments for me and praises me for keeping up with my roots.  She points out that people respond better to me when I look presentable.  She's right, sad to say; and I either have to go totally grey like my brave friend Penny Thieme, or keep getting those $60 root jobs.

But under no condition do I want to live in a nation where the phrase "dress like a woman" has a place in our presidential administration.

I still have not figured out how those who vote for #45 figure they have not been conned.  He's filling the swamp with a more dastardly breed of lizard, spending a huge amount of tax dollars on protecting his wife who apparently cannot stand the thought of moving to the White House, and, surprise surprise, Mexico is NOT paying for the wall -- we are, with increased purchase prices for Mexican goods subject to the tariff that Trump apparently intends to impose to "pay for the wall".  Or maybe we'll just pay with tax dollars and send Mexico the bill, I don't know.

Not to mention the absurdity of the wall altogether, as Internet pundits have demonstrated with meme after meme.  My favorite shows a series of arrows from the Mexican shores to American shores -- in California and the Gulf Coast states such as Louisiana.  Uh, right -- wall?  On the Mexican border with the U.S.?  Mebbe not such a good plan.

I can almost understand how Trump voters could ignore his proclamation that his status entitled him to "grab women by the pussy".  If I squint, I can nearly buy the argument that when he made fun of a disabled reporter, he had just lost it on the campaign trail for a second or three.  Of course, I have to ignore the explanation that he wasn't making fun of the reporter, just of "a regular retard", as one of his staff members or spokespersons bizarrely assured us.  But hey, everybody has off moments, right?

Now, you may say that expecting women in his administration to #DressLikeAWoman pales in comparison with his executive order banning even those who have been granted Visas or have green cards from entering the United States.  I completely agree that the immediate impact of such a blatant constitutional violation merits the swift and serious attention it got, and I certainly am proud of being a card-carrying member of the ACLU.  But listen:  This #DressLikeAWoman edict, as expressed in notes from interviews by the Axois team, sneaks into the rhetoric of the Trump administration and nearly gets past us because of the profound distraction of the twenty-executive-orders-in-ten-days whirlwind.

The plain and simple truth which runs through Trump's entire agenda is this:  He deeply believes in certain principles which are antithetical to the American way of life, including that all persons are created equal and that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body including how she clothes it. We are not equal in his eyes.  In fact, nobody is equal to Trump and his family -- in his eyes.  They are better, more valuable, richer, more privileged.  They can do and say as they please, because their worth surpasses that of everyone else.

If he were not president, that attitude would be laughable but not frightening.  Since he occupies the Oval Office, we must be very wary of how his sense of entitlement colors the way that he governs, and of how his treatment of women as beings to be freely manhandled while being suitably costumed will infect the decisions made and policies implemented during his tenure.

Remember the chant of his campaign towards his opponent:  Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up.

The president is not judge and jury; he is not Congress.  But a man who thinks that he can do as he pleases and that those around him must fall into step regardless of the lawfulness of his actions will act like judge, jury, and legislator.  This terrifies me.

When I first started practicing law, judges still occupied the bench who believed that women should not wear pants.  One judge in particular kept skirts in his courtroom and would not attend to the cases of anyone represented by a female lawyer in pants.  In short, he required woman lawyers to #DressLikeAWoman.

This took place 33 years ago.  I thought we had gone beyond such requirements here in America.  Apparently not in the eyes of #45.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Of Lives and Mattering

Sometimes I deeply regret the invention of the Internet.

Because of the instantaneous nature of virtual communication, even a poorly conceived concept can gain ground.  Its originators release the thought and watch it whip around the world.  They stare with varying degrees of chagrin or delight at the burgeoning shares, likes, and scowling faces as their brainchild tumbles down the hill gathering its immutable moss.

I've been reading a lot about perception, reality, and message as I grapple with my natural tendency to despise the current administration and all of its members and actions.  My stomach clenched at a short piece on NPR today claiming the new president "will keep some of Obama's policies in place".  I rejected any connection between the moral strength of the last eight years, and the ethical corruption of the two weeks that have just ended.

Then I took myself to task.  I realized that I had fallen into a dangerous trap.  While it's true that there is absolutely nothing about Donald Trump that I admire, respect, or consider beneficial; nonetheless, I should applaud anything he does to maintain the integrity of the successful two presidential terms which he follows.  Why, then, do I shudder, shirking from the implication that he might make a decision which benefits our nation?

We've become a polarized society.  We are red or blue.  The masses no longer tolerate any gradations on the spectrum.  I slink away at the blast of staunchly conservative rhetoric, clinging to my kind.  Where we formerly stood proud, now we stand strong.  Instead of crowing with glee, we blast in anger.  But we do it together, while those whom we condemn form an equally solid mass across the great divide of our fundamental differences.

When an idea whips around the Internet which threatens the perceived validity of either group, those fearing its message haul out their batons and beat it to a bloody mass.

That's what happened to the #BlackLivesMatter message.  No one should have minded the proclamation.  Certainly, I did not.  I completely agree with its intent as I understand what it originally broadcast. I see the slogan as a painful acknowledgment that for too long, in too many places, for too many people, the lives of people with darker skin than mine did not matter.  The concept of being guilty of being black after dark might make someone squirm but unquestionably has a frightening and documentable basis in the disproportionate number of arrests, tickets, stops, killings, and beatings that men, women, and teens "of color" have experienced in American society.

But the filter of fear turned the phrase into something ugly for some.  In response they blasted #BlueLivesMatter in defense of law enforcement; #AllLivesMatter to try to broaden the appeal of the original message; and a few random humorous variants to make a joke of it all or to create a buffer between warring factions.

I watched this happen with my own clumsy mixture of empathy and despair.

Do the lives of all Americans matter?  To me, yes. To everyone?  I do not think so.  I might be naive about some things, but the sting of racial insult lingers.  The burn of blood shed beneath a barrage of bullets hurled on the streets of our cities emits too strong a stench to be denied.

Here I would like to lay out some grand plan to mitigate this quagmire, to alleviate the burden of our divisiveness.  But I cannot.  Those who disagree with the values which I hold dear have taken over the reins of our nation's wagon and seem determined to drive us over the cliff.    Those who have come to our shores seeking their share of the amber waves of grain let their empty vessels fall from their hands.  Every day another startling revelation radiates from this new government and convinces me that no lives matter to those who have assumed the mantel of power except the lives of the rich, the white, the Christian, and the inner circle.

The tone and portent of the flood of executive orders depresses and terrifies me.  I see no real potential for the harmonizing of the divergent views in these United States.  But I love my country.  So I stand and wait.  I gather and write.  I protest and I rally.  I read and cogitate.  And when a hand reaches out to me, I entwine my fingers with those of my sisters and my brothers, no matter their color, no matter their religion, no matter the origins of their accents or the gender of their spouse.

  Through everything we face today, this truth persists:  All lives matter to me.  It is not much, but it's something, and I cling to it as the frightening days ahead unfold.

I waited for my cardiologist visit yesterday surrounded by hearts.  
Valentine's Day is my least-favorite holiday, 
but I'm thinking of finding new meaning in the concept of a day dedicated to love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Because I Am An American

A meme on social media asked me if I remembered where I was on 28 January 1986 -- the day of The Challenger catastrophe.  Yes, yes I do.  I spent an hour gaping at a television over the bar at Sundance's at 12th and Cherry, a few blocks from the courthouse at which I worked as a prosecutor.  No one spoke.  Drinks were on the house.  Every man and woman in the place loosened their ties, shed their jackets, slumped over their drinks, and watched the horrifying news of the death of Christa McAuliffe and her companions.

I also vividly recall where I learned of John F. Kennedy's assassination on 22 November 1963.  My third grade teacher, Mother Rosamund, hauled a heavy stand into the classroom, plugged in the black-and-white television, and admonished us to sit still  We folded our sweaty eight-year-old hands and shivered as we watched the stunning news of our President's murder.  I don't know what reporter thought to film Jackie Kennedy with her blood-stained suit, but the image still haunts me.

Another sight which haunts me:  15 September 1963, the day four girls lost their lives in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.  Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, all 14 years old; and 11-year-old Denise McNair.  I sat with my family with the news reels blaring.  My mother sobbed.  My father shook his head.  My little brothers cried although I do not know if they understood what had taken place.

I remember the pivotal times in our history because I am an American.  We find meaning in the inter-connectedness of our entire republic, each man, woman, boy, and girl.  From the most mundane moment, to the most spectacular, events resonate from San Francisco  to Manhattan.  What happens in our country captures our attention not because we luxuriate in the macabre or in the pain of others, but because their pain becomes our pain.  We stagger backwards with the splatter of flying shrapnel, the jerk of each blast, the pounding of each wave.  What happens to our brothers and sisters happens to us.

At least, that is how I view things.  I realize that my view might seem naive to some.  I got into a car with a friend yesterday and said, "How about that Sally Yates, isn't she awesome?  My hero!"  My friend replied, "Well, she's not mine -- how dare she defy the President!"  She and I graduated from the same law school.  We practice the same type of law.  We're close in age and both of us were raised in the Roman Catholic Church.  But we see the deputy attorney general's decision not to enforce Trump's ban on persons from certain countries crossing our borders from different perspectives.   I see the decision of Sally Yates as a righteous defense of law and morality while my friend considers it to be mere insubordination.

 I  let the subject drop at the time, but remember it now with less chagrin than I felt in the moment.  Now, I realize that she has her opinion and I have mine, and I can accept that.

Because I am an American.

But then I scroll again through the internet, looking for just the right passage to help me make sense of our current political climate.  I skip past the references to George Orwell's 1984.  I skim the paragraphs which I've re-read in the last months, including It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis.  I briefly pause to re-read a sentence from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the chilling account of an ordinary day for a political prisoner in one of Stalin's grim camps, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Finally, I pause on the one piece of writing which encapsulates everything about America that underscores my endless love for my country, and my endless fear for my country as we stand on the brink of a new and frightening divide.  This one passage --  eternal, immutable, bold, and noble, states the case for every protest being held; for every march, on every street, in every courthouse corridor, on every public square.   I quote it for you now -- and I commend it to you as a road map for your unfaltering steps from where you live to Washington, D.C., whether those steps be taken in your car, by plane, or at the keyboard of your computer to be sent eastward on virtual wings.

 I comment this everlasting proclamation to you because I am an American.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Program

I am not sure which disturbs me more:  texts from an Iranian America friend about the terrifying wait for her parents to return to the U.S. today; or the sound of Trump's press secretary saying that the scores of dissenting diplomats have to "get with the program or get out"

Spicer's slap on these career diplomats horrifies me because I cannot fathom how he defines "program".  Is "the program" barring green card and vetted Visa holders from entering the United States?  Is "the program" stopping a 30-year-old, brilliant PhD from starting important research?

Is "the program" banning travelers from the countries from which terrorists have not come, while allowing travelers from nations spawning terrorists which happen to be those with which Trump does business?

Is "the program" putting money in Trump's pockets at the expense of American values?

I fully understand that each new administration will have its own way of doing things.  But I have yet to hear anyone other than Sean Spicer actually defend Trump's executive order, though I did hear one or two Republican members of the administration and a former Republican adviser suggest that we should give this order, and Trump, a chance to work.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham spoke today against Trump's ban.  Jeff Flake, junior Republican senator from Arizon, said "President Trump and his administration are right to be concerned about national security, but it’s unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry." Flake continued, in a statement posted on the website Medium.com: "Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims."

Capital letters: These are Republicans.  Not Democrats, not liberals.  Republicans.

My friend whose parents arrived back in the U.S. today calls upon us to do more than merely voice dissent.  I agree with her.  Trump is not a dictator.  He holds a powerful office but it is not without limits.  Checks and balances keep any branch of office from abusing its power.  Congress must act to offset this tragedy which left thousands stranded, refused entry despite months and even years of vetting, and threatens academia, science, trade, technology, and our world image.

Like my friend's family, the family of Sarah Assali felt the direct, sudden, and menacing impact of Trump's order.  Sarah Assali and her father were expecting to meet Syrian uncles, aunts and cousins at the Philadelphia International Airport on Saturday. But on their way, they got a call from U.S. Customs and Border Protection telling them to stay home. Their family members who are Syrian Christians were heading back to the Middle East, told that if they did not acquiesce, their Visas would be canceled and they would not be allowed to return to the United States for five years.  The family had been working on immigration for fourteen years.  They had liquidated their valuables to afford the plane fare.  Now they are back in Syria, their future uncertain, their resources depleted, and their Herculean efforts to pursue the American dream held for nothing.

If that's the "program", Mr. Trump, count America out.  We left England to avoid a despot King; we fought a civil war  and two World Wars to defend freedom; and our men and women in uniform continue to valiantly fight for the same noble causes.

This is not the American program.  It might be Trump's program, but it is not ours, and we should stand together in protest of this threat to American values.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sweet Land of Liberty

I am sixty-one and a half years of age, and each day of my existence, I have been a proud American.

At the age of twelve, I stood beside my mother holding a sign proclaiming peace and love when the nuns ridiculed my long-haired brother.

In 1970, I helped my mother affix a home-made bumper-sticker to her car which read, "Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia:  But I have FOUR sons."

That same year, I walked the streets of St. Louis with hundreds of others to raise money for impoverished Americans in Appalachia.  In the summer, I slept on a mattress on the immaculately clean floor of a couple's home on the black side of Haiti, Missouri.  Their neighborhood had unpaved streets, no electricity, and no running water.  In the morning, with several of my contemporaries and two social workers, we took our hosts to breakfast in town.  The waitress told us that we were welcome but not our black companions, including one of the social workers, a man whose father had been killed by Idi Amin's soldiers.

We stood our ground until the sheriff came and told the lady, in a tone which belied the courage of his convictions, that she had to let us sit.  All of us.  I still recall the taste of the eggs in my mouth and the victory in our hearts.

I have seen progress and my pride in our nation swelled each time a law passed or was struck down, and civil liberties grew a little more sure, a little more certain.  Today I fly a rainbow flag which my son helped me raise after the killings in Orlando.  I live beside a gay married couple, together eleven years and legally married for one, since the Supreme Court acknowledged their right to love whom they please.  Across the street in an ivy-covered brick house, two women have lived together longer than the combined years of my three marriages.  Two doors down, another gay man has bought a run-down house and improved it so much that the entire block has increased in value.

To the north of me, a family from India occupies a lovely little bungalow.  The grandfather walks  past my house most days, slim and slow.  He nods when he sees me, or lifts a hand.  If I leave for work at just the right time, I see the mother standing in her colorful traditional garb, with her son in his school uniform waiting for the bus.  At the corner of 59th, a man and his mother cook their native food at Chai-Shai, where the pakora melts in your mouth and the masala chai warms your soul.

This morning, I amended the sign that I displayed in my window a few days ago.  It had proclaimed that my home welcomed all:  Gay, Straight, Trans, Gender-Fluid, Black, White, Muslim, Jew.  A sign displaying a safety pin proclaimed YOU ARE SAFE WITH ME.  I STAND WITH YOU.

Now I have added an affirmation that IMMIGRANTS BUILT THIS NATION.  I have affirmed that WE DO NOT SUPPORT THE BAN ON IMMIGRATION.

I remain proud to be an American.  The executive orders being signed in Washington do not reflect the American values which I learned so very long ago, in my mother's home in Jennings, Missouri, where all were welcome and any food we had would be divided a little further if another hungry child sought refuge at our table.

My mother's grandfather resisted conscription in the Austrian army in defiance of the call to join the Austro-Hungary war.  He shot off his trigger finger in protest, and came to America to live in a land where freedom rang.  Several years later, he brought his wife and children, including my grandmother, to find happiness in his adopted homeland.  They worked hard, toiled long hours, had thirteen children, and wove themselves into the fiber of this nation.

Their oldest daughter, Johanna, married a Syrian boy whose family had also come to Illinois to have a new life in the land of opportunity.  Delmar Lyons, my grandfather, was born into an immigrant family whose surname in old Lebanon had been "Assad", which means "lion".  Johanna Ulz and Delmar Lyons had three daughters, their eldest being my mother Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley. Johanna's blond Austrian complexion yielded to Delmar's olive skin to produce the loveliest young ladies in all of Gillespie.  Both heritages show in my siblings and me:  A few tow-heads, some pale Irish skin from my father, blue eyes and brown, a couple of hook-beaked noses.   Our blended heritage marches across our faces in  a lively tribute to the American melting pot.

Believe me when I tell you that I feel nothing but shame for our nation on the heels of Trump's order to halt immigration.  But I straighten my shoulders and hold my head high reading news of the young lawyers who sat cross-legged on the floor at the airports of our biggest cities, writing the briefs which would land on the desk of a judge brave enough to stop this madness, at least in part, at least for now.

Trump's order does not reflect the greatness of America.  We do not reject entire groups of immigrants based upon country or religion.  We do not condemn entire classes of people as unworthy of inclusion.  We left that deplorable attitude beside the rocky way towards equality, along the avenues where we marched for justice, at the bench in courtrooms of small towns and big cities.  In America, you are not to be judged by the color of your skin but the content of your character.  If my brother kills, I do not go to jail.  If another person of Irish-Austrian-Lebanese descent sprays the crowd with bullets in a crowded courtyard, my freedom cannot be curtailed just because of our shared heritage.

Trump does not speak for America.  But his power will drag all of us into the muck of his small-minded, bigoted, terrible  reality if we do not stop him.  After only one week in office, he has angered nations, belittled desperate refugees, built a coalition of men who share his divisive mindset, and threatened to destroy the lovely tapestry of a united and inclusive America which two and a half centuries of progress has created.

 I can almost understand voting for Trump, if you felt desperate and abandoned, if the slow steady rise in our economy had not been swift enough or great enough to pull you from the recession.  I can see buying into his message of economic change, even though he had no policies to create anything quicker, or surer, or better than the careful reconstruction of the eight years just ended.  If you remained unemployed, if you did not understand the newness of the world around you, I can almost see that Trump's flashy rhetoric might appeal to you.

But now:  I cannot comprehend how anyone can still back this man, as he tears away at everything for which this nation has always stood, since the fateful day when we threw tea in the Boston Harbor and declared that the King would not control us.

Another man who would be king strives to turn our republic into his fiefdom.  We cannot let him.  We must stand with our brothers and sisters of all colors, all nationalities, all religions, and all sexual orientations.  This is America.  This is who we are.  We do not turn our backs on those in need, on refugees, on those living in poverty and fleeing persecution.  We open our gates and let them take comfort on our shores.  That is the greatness of America.

I say this to those who feel threatened by these terrible events:

I stand with you.  You are safe with me.  

Dark times threaten the sanctity of our Republic.  We must resist.  Our future, our freedom, depends on the choices we make in this moment. We can rise together and remain the America that our founders envisioned, or we can fall with this little man who sees only the base interests of himself and those who huddle around him.  The choice is ours.  Let us make that choice with wisdom, compassion, and honor.  Let us not abandon the values which have made this nation great.

Stand up.   Stand for Freedom.  Stand for Justice.  Stand for Lady Liberty.  I will stand with you.