Monthly Archives: May 2016

How Emotion has taken over Politics

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Let me start by putting all my Trump supporting “friends” at ease.  This is not a trash Trump post. It is also not a trash Hillary post. I won’t even be trashing Bernie, despite my serious issues with his policies towards Israel. Actually, hold that thought.  I take that back.  I might trash Bernie a little. You see, the point is that to many people it makes no difference what these politician’s policies actually are.  What ultimately matters is who we like.

I start with a bit of disclaimer.  A friend of mine who has been around for many election cycles and has met numerous politicians, candidates and even presidents over the years told me that every election he’s ever seen was decided by who people like more than by the candidate’s policies.  That being said, personally I’ve never seen anything like what we are witnessing this year.  It’s so bad that if Clinton and Trump would do exactly the same thing the reactions would be completely different based on who people like.  Trump knows it.  We all assume he was joking when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his supporters would still support him, but we all now know this is true.  Of course I don’t believe for one second Trump would shoot someone on 5th Avenue, he’s more likely to take them out back and do it on Madison Avenue (just kidding), but those who support him wouldn’t care either way.

It’s not just Trump supporters by any means.  I’ve seen numerous discussions take place between staunch Conservatives and Hilary Clinton supporters, and when they ask them about the deaths of 4 Americans in Benghazi and hold her responsible, her supporters never come back with a factual response.  They either say it doesn’t matter, there was nothing she could do, or that they don’t care if she made a mistake, they still support her. I’m not discussing her culpability in the matter, and I am not saying whether there is or is not a factual response, but if you support her and that is your answer, it’s not about policy, it’s either about personality or habit.  By habit I mean voting for someone because they represent the party you stand behind and you could never vote differently no matter what your candidate says or does. But let’s be honest. If you didn’t sufficiently like the candidate, that would most likely trump (pun intended) your usual habit.

A friend of mine in the sales world once said, “people buy with emotion, then justify it with logic”.  It would appear most Americans vote the same way.  Case in point, here are some of the most common terms of the day

“I love Trump”

“I hate Hilary”

“I hate Trump”

“Feel the Bern”

“I love Hilary”

“Trump scares me”

“I like Trump”

“I like Hilary”

“I like Bernie”

These 9 terms are indicative of what drives a large portion of the American electorate as  we sit here today May 18, 2016.  Don’t believe me?  Watch “Waters World” on the “O’Reilly Factor” just one time and you’ll see how a large percentage of people who choose the president think (using the word think very loosely).  And those are just the dumb ones. Want to hear a smart person sound really stupid? Turn on CNN and listen to Kayleigh Mcenany, Georgetown graduate who studied politics at Oxford University and Donald Trump surrogate. Surrogate is different than supporter. Supporters don’t need to sound smart, surrogates do.  The best way to describe Kayleigh Mcenany’s support for Donald Trump is to imagine him tweeting something to the effect of, Kayleigh Mcenany is an ugly cow (I use that as an hypothetical because she’s actually quite attractive).  I am fairly convinced that her response would be something like this.  I believe what Mr. Trump was trying to say was that he loves his wife Melania very much and that she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

You see, in this election cycle it doesn’t matter to the people what you say or what you’ve been accused of doing, all that matters is if you like them.  I’ve heard people who love Israel say they like Bernie Sanders in the same sentence.  Why? Because he’s a charismatic old dude from Brooklyn and they like him. It certainly can’t be because of his approach towards Israel, an approach that could facilitate its destruction. Then again, why listen to me.  I’m just saying that because “I hate Bernie”.  I’d add that to the list but it’s not a prevailing emotion. Most either like him or don’t take him seriously. I as a Jew and a Zionist feel strongly about him because of a stated policy approach.

Since I have my moments when I both like and don’t like Trump and Hilary, I’ll leave my personal feelings (other than my disapproval for Bernie) out of this.   I will say this in defense of everyone, myself included that base their support or lack of support on emotion.  There’s nothing wrong with voting for someone who makes you feel good about life, the future, and the country you love, or at least like.  Just admit it.  Don’t try so hard to pretend it’s because of policy when we all know that most candidates main policy issue anyway is just getting themselves elected.  Pick who you like, hold your breath, and hope you’re right.  And while you’re at it don’t insult someone who likes something or someone different than you do, because there is no right and wrong when it comes to what someone likes.  That would be like someone telling you they like Pizza and responding “your wrong”. Those of you who will say that is very different may be in that minority that does pick a candidate based on policy or claims to because they are justifying their emotional choice with logic, but let’s face the facts.  Elections are popularity contests, not referendums on judgment and experience.  And my friend is probably right.  It’s probably always been that way.

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A Voice for the Children and all victims of Sexual Abuse

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If we are to assume that our efforts in letting others know our views are at least partially for the purpose of fighting injustice, it goes without saying that we are obliged to speak the loudest in defense of those who are unable to defend themselves. No other group needs our voice and protection more than children do.

Due to the incredible courage of my friend Ana Wagner, the subject of sexual abuse towards children has become a subject more prominent in my thoughts.  I chose those words carefully. “Prominent in my thoughts” clearly identifies this as something  that has been of great importance long before I bothered to pay attention.  I am confident that many others reading this fall into the same category as I do. Although always finding it abhorrent and despicable on an intellectual level, having never been exposed to it personally it never was something I paid close attention to. It was always something that would disgust me, as it would any decent human being, but it never was “prominent in my thoughts”.  Thanks to Ana that is no longer the case. For a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, watching Ana’s heart wrenching revelation of her experience of her own sexual abuse, (CLICK HERE TO SEE HER VIDEO)  I learned how over 25 years later these acts of incredible evil will live with her forever. This is a crime with such intense impact on its victim, escaping the memory of it is not an option.  When I think back to being a teenager, I remember having the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence. A child who is a victim of sexual abuse does not have that same luxury.  Their issues are far greater and have far greater impact on the rest of their lives, and in most cases, whether it is due to shame or as was the case for Ana, fear of consequences, the children remain silent.  They have no voice because they feel they have no choice.

The other reason I care more now that I know Ana’s story is that it reveals to you how a child from a loving and normal home can still be a victim from someone connected to the family rather than someone who is part of the family.  That means all our children, and by our children I mean those we love and are closest to us, whether or not they are our personal offspring or not, need to be shielded and protected by us.  We as adults must accept that obligation to pay close attention, do whatever we can to see the signs, and protect the innocents from predators.

One of the reasons I also felt compelled to write this was to see how I could help in the fight to eliminate the Statute of Limitations in sexual abuse cases.  My personal moral compass tells me a Statute of Limitations for sex abuse makes no sense, so I decided to look at the logic based on definitions and see what I would find.  Here is what I came up with.

A statute of limitation is a law which forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago. The general purpose of statutes of limitation is to make sure convictions occur only upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated with time.

I also found the following:

.If a plaintiff is a minor or incapacitated by reason of mental illness, the relevant statute of limitations is tolled until the disability is removed.

I am neither a lawyer nor a psychologist, but I do see these definitions as creating all types of holes in the existing Statute of Limitations for sex abuse.  I have known Ana for about 5 years and never knew she had gone through the abuse she has recently revealed to the public.  I admit I don’t know her as well as others do, but I still can honestly say that I never saw any hint that she was exposed to anything remotely resembling such unspeakable evil.  My point is, if  a Statute of Limitations is to  “make sure convictions occur only upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated with time”, how can such a Statute apply to a crime where the suffering is inherently a silent suffering?  A suffering where there is no physical evidence unless it is revealed and carefully examined , and where the pain and suffering may diminish and be dealt with, but never deteriorates with time. Secondly when saying “If a plaintiff is a minor or incapacitated by reason of mental illness, the relevant statute of limitations is tolled until the disability is removed”, how do we measure any form of mental illness or disability caused by this crime?  Ana’s strength and talents coupled with the support of her loved ones may have allowed her to prevail in life, but even she still feels an immeasurable suffering.  For those who can not even function properly in society or maintain personal relationships because of these crimes, by what logic or right does government allow and apply a Statute of Limitations?

If you get nothing else out of this article and Ana’s story let it be this.  Watch and protect those who need your attention and protection the most.  Be more than just the voice for your children, truly be their guardian and make sure that those you entrust them with are indeed the people you think they are.  The stakes are too high to take a risk with that which is more precious than anything else, the children.

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Establishment or Dissent. Which one is it?

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I’m struck by the hypocrisy coming out of the Trump camp.  In fairness, the “camp” I am referring to is not so much Donald himself but those who support him and seemingly gravitate to the term of surrogate.  Having spent an entire year hearing how Trump is anti-establishment, and following his success among voters sick and tired of the usual ways of Washington, I wonder by what right do Trump’s people insist that all Republicans should back their candidate?

I’m not questioning the legitimacy of his candidacy, solely based on the fact that he got to where he is through a Democratic process, but to aggressively demand that the likes of Romney, Ryan and the Bush’s have some sort of obligation to support him now that he is the presumptive nominee is opportunistic hypocrisy at its worst.  It’s almost like Trump’s surrogates are saying, “we won, now fall in line whether you like it or not”.

This issue does a lot to crystallize the major issues people have with the specter of a President Trump.  As one who is not convinced he is actually a racist demagogue but still potentially very dangerous, I see this issue as a very clear indication of what we might be looking at should he ascend to the position of leader of the Free World.  A presidential candidate’s benefits and dangers are not merely based on their words or actions but very much based on the impact those words and actions have on their supporters.  Trump’s responses to those who choose to not support him are very much what they’ve been throughout his campaign, mocking ridicule and name calling.  As non-presidential as that might be it’s not dangerous per se.  But his surrogates grab the torch from him and then take a different approach.  They go on the attack against those who choose not to support him, taking the approach of almost bullying them into changing their positions. It’s just a matter of time till the names of those Republicans not supporting him will be spoken of by Trump’s surrogates with the same venom they have when speaking of the Clintons or President Obama.  But what is the deal here?  If they are so anti-establishment, how does it make any sense for these surrogates to claim wrongdoing on the part of the establishment types unwilling to support their candidate?  If you are anti-establishment how can you demand the establishment concede? It’s one or the other, make your pick.

I know it’s a free country, for now at least, and that no laws are being broken when Trump’s followers go on the attack against his opponents, but the climate being created is a volatile one at best, and just like in international conflicts that are deemed powder kegs, the slightest misstep or out of the ordinary event could cause a disaster.  Trump might really love Hispanics, not just Tacos, but the danger in his candidacy remains, not just because of him but because of those who follow him.

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A Letter to my Mother, A Survivor, on Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Dear Mom,

Normally I keep our most meaningful and personal interactions private.  After all, you are my mother and our conversations are not meant for the ears or eyes of others.  However, today as we remember those who perished in the Holocaust, in light of our most recent conversation I write this letter, a letter I will first read to you and then with your permission share with others.

There are some emotions so personal that there is nothing constructive nor appropriate in sharing them with others.  But when these emotions are generated by something so universally understood and accepted, sharing them is not only appropriate, it’s positive and even beneficial to make them known.  I write this only a few minutes after having spoken with you and having heard the deep sadness and emotion in your voice. As someone who lived in Holland through those horrific years of Nazi occupation, and being someone who lost loved ones, it is not only normal for you to feel as you do, it reflects a balance and sanity I dare say is partially responsible for the fact that you are still alive and well at 94.  I write this however to relay something positive that is most certainly lost on you as you partially relive and acknowledge the tragedy of 1940-1945.

You are not only important to those who love you.  You are important to the Jewish people and to all of civilization.  You, my mother who I love dearly are the symbol of strength, courage, decency, but most importantly on this day, survival.  You look at the book of names of the Dutch Jewish victims, more than 100,000 of what was once more than 140,000, many of them children, and ask why?  Why did they have to be killed? Why did you survive?  No one can ever answer the question of why they were killed, but I will venture to give an answer as to why you survived.

The life you have lived is a life that has been representative of hope and continuation. None of this has anything to do with with merit.  There are many who died who did not deserve it, as there were Nazis that survived who did not deserve life.  However, you have lived and thankfully continue to live a life in which you not only have given honor and respect to those who were lost, you also have made your days count. You together with Dad, of blessed memory brought a wonderful family into this world that continues to not only grow, but to contribute positively.  Your life and your actions are more of a sacred testimony and remembrance to the victims than any prayer you will say tomorrow in synagogue.

No one can ever change what happened, but your life as it has been and continues to be is everything it should be from someone who was fortunate enough to survive the Holocaust. I am honored to be your son and love you very much.

David

 

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Written by David Groen

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Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly Regarding Media Involvement in Trump’s success

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Dear Bill,

I happen to be a fan of yours.  I watch your show often, find you engaging, informative and have a great admiration for your intelligence.  Normally I find you to be true to your word about being fair and balanced.  However in a recent discussion on your show in which you discussed the impact the media has had on the rise of Donald Trump I felt you did the one thing you normally do not do, you spun the story to benefit your position. Normally the manner in which you stay clear of that trap distinguishes you significantly from anyone else that comes close to your level of success.  In this matter however I fee that you failed tremendously, and here is why.

I find it unlikely you will read this, even less likely you will respond and next to impossible that my concerns will reach anyone beyond your organization or your show for that matter, but seeing as this is indeed a story I agree to be as significant as you maintain it to be, I felt it important to reach out to you.  You may indeed be entirely correct regarding some of your assertions of your lack of involvement in the promotion of Donald Trump.  I believe you when you say you have made unsuccessful attempts at getting other candidates on your show and I accept your argument that your job is to report the news and that Donald Trump makes news.  But what about the rest of the media, be it FOX ,CNN or others?  After last week’s primaries in Pennsylvania, my brother Marcel Groen, State Party Chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party was scheduled to appear on FOX Business with Neil Cavuto.  He waited for about an hour before he had to go back to attend to his responsibilities and commitments.  Why? Because almost every single guest that came on, some that appeared to not be originally scheduled, came on to speak about Donald Trump, pushing Neil Cavuto way over his schedule.   I understand that FOX is a network far more in sync with the Republican Party, but there was more news that night than Donald Trump.   I realize in fairness that what happened the day of the Pennsylvania primaries can not be directly seen as helping the rise of Donald Trump to that point, but it certainly did represent what has been going on for quite some time.  Also let me make something clear.  This is not about me being disappointed that my brother did not appear on air that night.  I am quite certain he got over it immediately as did I and anyone else who wanted to see him. However, it does clearly show how the coverage is driven by the Trump phenomena over everything else.

And it is hardly just FOX who is to blame. CNN has their very own Trump surrogate, Kayleigh Mcenany at almost every political discussion.  What other candidate can we say that about?  It often seemed that when there were Trump surrogates at most of these discussions, they were countered more with anti-Trump voices than with surrogates for Cruz or Kasich.

The media may not want to accept responsibility, but it has a responsibility nonetheless. For months all we heard about John Kasich was how he was the most qualified of any candidate. Yet since he was not exciting enough, and therefore might not have generated the same ratings, the percentage of time he was covered compared to Donald Trump and even Ted Cruz was catastrophic to his candidacy.  And Bill, regardless of whether or not the other candidates accept your invitation to be on your show, did you not have some responsibility to cover their activities in a more proportionate manner?  Your answer may very well be that you did not have that responsibility and that would certainly be within your rights. After all, as you often say, it is your show, you have been number 1 for a long time and you know what you are doing.  I just think it would be have been more fair and balanced to an audience possibly making the most important choice of its lifetime if you had accepted that responsibility.  Most of all it would have been far more honest if you would have come clean and admit it’s all about ratings rather than say the media did not play a significant role.

I have heard the argument that has been made about how so much of the negative press about Donald Trump also comes from the media.  That immediately made me remember one of my best friends from my High School days in London who once told me, “I don’t really care if people love me or hate me, as long as they talk about me”. Donald Trump has benefited from this excessive coverage from the start, be it good or bad.  But Bill, I ask you to consider the following analogy.  When a fan rushes on to a baseball field, television no longer shows the fan in realization that in doing so the allure of rushing the field has been significantly diminished.  Who knows what might have happened for example if the media had reacted comparably to Donald Trump saying that John McCain was not a war hero because he got caught.  The Trump campaign may never have gotten to where it is today.

All this being said I will continue to watch because I do respect you and enjoy your show, even if I do feel that regarding this topic you have been much less truthful than you normally are, not just to your audience but possibly to yourself as well.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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