Author Archives: davidgroen1

A message on Thanksgiving: No One is Entitled

menow

On this Thanksgiving, when we stop and think of all the things we should be happy for, we need to realize that the things we overlook, the things we take for granted are the things we need to be most thankful for.  If we live a life without hunger, a life where we can move around safely in freedom, and where are worst complaints still have us living a life so many around the world would be thrilled to be living, we need to truly stop and be thankful.

The things we might call “ridiculous”, the inconveniences that frustrate us, those things we seem to forget are gifts, not things we are entitled to, those are the things that either we should be thankful for, or at the very least should motivate us for a general feeling of thanks.  There may very well be people who read this that truly have problems.  Poor health or poor health of a loved one, hunger, poverty, violence or death are all reasons to ask for a better life and a better world.  But for those who get upset when the air condition doesn’t work for a day, or the line in the supermarket is too long, the website you love going on is down for maintenance, or your boss was mean to you, take a minute to realize how lucky you really are to have these problems.  And be thankful for it.

If you scored a big payday, or had great things happen in your personal life, of course you should be thankful for this.  But on this Thanksgiving to everyone looking for things to be thankful for and missing the obvious right in front of them I say this.  These are blessings, not entitlements. Be thankkful for them.

Withing you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Is ridiculing feelings like Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Not in my America

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We all know the saying, “As American as Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet”.  I always liked that saying, because although I’m not a car guy and Apple Pie isn’t my favorite thing in the world, at least those 3 things, I do like baseball a lot,  have the ability to contribute positively to people’s lives.  So if Apple Pie and Chevrolet are to be associated with things very American, that only stimulates and strengthens my patriotic impulse.  Unfortunately in the time passed since the election, it appears that a large segment of society thinks there is something else that is the American way, and that is the ridiculing of feelings.

I am white, I am Jewish, I am straight and I am male.  So in all fairness, as much as I genuinely am not pleased with the outcome of the election, the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign statements and his new administration’s potential upcoming policy agenda, at least on the surface won’t impact me directly.  So if I would speak constantly of ongoing sadness and despair, although I would have every right to feel it, I could see the rationale in calling me a cry baby.  But what about those, potentially at least, who feel they will be directly impacted?

The LGBT community has watched as the country has elected a ticket with a Vice President formerly in favor of using HIV funding for conversion therapy and once signed a bill to jail same sex couples in Indiana who applied for marriage licenses.  Are gay people whiners if they express concern and even fear?  Is the cast of Hamilton really harassing the Vice President elect as stated by the President-elect Donald Trump because they use their platform to first welcome him to their show and then call on him to be a public servant for all Americans? Are the feelings of people whose lives could get directly impacted by policy or attitude wrong for having feelings? Not in my America?

What about law-abiding, patriotic American Muslims.  And yes, for those of you on the right rolling your eyes and wondering how a proud Jewish man and proud Zionist could say such a thing, there are significantly more of those types of Muslims in the country than there are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.  Are they wrong for being scared?  Are they wrong for feeling fear of the backlash caused by comments by the President-elect  and his new National Security adviser during the campaign?  Are they wrong for feeling as though they are being made to feel less than welcome in what is also their America?  Is it OK to see them as a threat merely for being born into the religion they were born into?  Not in my America?

But no other group has been made to feel more deeply isolated and frightened by what has taken place during this election cycle than the Latino community.  Addressing those Mexicans who are murderers and rapists in a way that left it open to be interpreted as all Mexicans, rallying people behind the building of a wall between the US and Mexico, and most significantly garnishing support by proposing rounding up all undocumented aliens and deporting them, was all it took to create an atmosphere of fear and despair in much of Latino America.  This is about much more than Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.  This is also about how so much of the American public took to the rhetoric.  Blaming undocumented immigrants for your poor lot in life is at best a precursor to a dangerous racist society, at worst the creation of it.   So I ask you, were Latinos who were shaking and crying the day after the election crybabies and whiners?  Not in my America.

I have often said that you can dispute facts but you can not dispute feelings.  Someone is not wrong for how they feel.  Their feelings may be based in the perversion of fact, but questioning the legitimacy of feelings is as illogical as saying someone is wrong for liking Pizza or Star Trek.  People like what they like and feel what they feel.  Furthermore, when a large segment of society feels a certain way, especially when those feelings are based on things they have consistently heard for over a year and a half, who is anyone to ridicule those feelings?  Are people who have been the basis and so much of the foundation of Donald Trump’s success wrong for feeling targeted?  Not in my America.

Just as we should not ridicule the feelings of those decent people who chose Donald Trump because they found him to be the best choice moving forward, so too we should not tolerate the ridicule of the people who are not happy with the result.  Particularly those who feel their lives might very well be negatively impacted.  You might say that protesting will do nothing positive and may just make it harder to move forward.  I understand that viewpoint. Rioting and causing damage to property and loss of life should be met with harsh and immediate punishment.  Without question I get that.  But is ridiculing feelings as much a symbol of this great country as Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Not in my America.

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When Muslims save Jews

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An interesting thing happened today.  A predominantly Muslim country potentially saved the lives of many Jews.  Israelis no less.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Kosovo police thwarted an attack on Israel’s international soccer team reportedly planned by members of ISIS from Syria. This turn of events, one that causes a collective sigh of relief and for those who believe in a higher power a show of thanks to God up above, also has very relevant and majorly important significance in a country not directly involved.  That country being our very own United States of America.

Over the years I’ve been anything but moderate in my approach towards Islamic extremism.  I have no problem recognizing the danger of the aggressive and violent approach taken by too many elements in the Muslim world.  I have zero tolerance for those who are murderers in the name of a so-called cause and I recognize the vicious hatred and venom towards Israel from much of the leadership in the Muslim world. That being said, I also not only recognize, but believe wholeheartedly that the greatest majority of Muslims, regardless of how they actually feel toward Israel and the west, do not want any part in violence towards anyone and just want to live a peaceful and productive life.  In fact, I would go as far as saying that what took place in Kosovo is evidence to that fact.

Since the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States, the status of Muslims in America has been very much in the forefront.  I get it. I honestly do.  I have often said that although most Muslims are not terrorists, the majority of terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims.  The safety of innocent people is a major responsibility of any government and actions need to be taken to see to it that all that needs to get done does get done.  However, an attack on an entire people or religion is not only immoral and reminiscent of tyranny from the past, it’s a bad strategy.  The events in Kosovo bare this out.  In the name of fairness and objectivity, when you listen carefully to Donald Trump’s words and proposals, he never goes after all Muslims.  What he does however is target the problem as being a Muslim problem, which if done correctly and with a degree of tact would possibly have tremendously positive effects, but when done with mere soundbites causes a large percentage of people to see the entire Muslim world as a threat.

I don’t make a habit of defending Muslims.  As a Jew and a Zionist I’ve had plenty of justified anger towards many Muslims over my lifetime.  However, I also don’t believe in going after one group of people merely because of what they are, and if only from a pragmatic sense, it’s stupid.  Setting aside the fact that I personally base who I like and who I call a friend on how they are personally, if the entire Muslim world gets alienated, even if it’s a result of interpretation of Trump’s words as opposed to their actual meaning, the rest of us are indeed not better off or safer as a result.  My fellow Jews who think otherwise need look no further than Kosovo, where a police force of a population mostly consistent of Muslims did the right thing and stopped a potential massacre of Israeli soccer players.

There is a middle of the road, and throughout history that middle has always achieved the best results, not an extreme ideology in any one direction.  There is indeed safety in numbers, and if there are large numbers of Muslims who want to live in peace, a fact that any reasonable individual knows to be the case, then working with them will get us a lot further than alienating them.  The argument that “Trump didn’t say that”, isn’t enough anymore. As President-Elect he has a responsibility to how his followers interpret his words, and if he does not recognize that, even if his intentions are good, the damage caused will result in him failing tragically, for everyone, including those that support him.

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The Correct way to Fight: No matter what side you’re on

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Clearly much of the he said she said we’ve been consistently exposed over the past few years has had very little to do with the election.  In fact I dare say in many cases it didn’t even have anything to do with discontent towards the political system.  Is the system flawed at best, failed at worst? Most definitely.  But that does nothing to explain those who are expressing anger in ways that do nothing to help move us forward.  On both sides. Yesterday I listened to an interview with NBA Hall of Famer and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who when asked what he felt about the protests responded by saying something to effect of, to make change we must use the political platform and that taking to the streets will do almost nothing to create actual change.  Many are expressing their anger and their fears and I get that.  To do so violently however, shows this is more about personal anger and exploitation than it is about change.

That by no means is the only thing going on here though. The amount of hate I have witnessed since the election from people who should be happy, after all their guy won, is besides being disturbing, very revealing and enlightening.  You see,  many people hate just for the sake of hating.  Many people take their own personal frustrations and anger out on anyone they can, and whether their candidate wins or loses, the candidate they say will fix all their ills, these people are still angry and miserable.

I had 2 very interesting incidents take place in the past 24 hours.  The more positive and encouraging one was with a relatively new friend, a retired New York City policeman and avid Trump supporter. Since the election almost every one of his emails to me, whether they were his view or the views of others, were focused more on a joy and relief towards the outcome of the election.  Although I don’t share his glee and optimism, I do however appreciate how his general approach since the election has been one more of excitement to the future, not a continuing rebuke towards half of the country.  Something both sides should stop.  He expressed to me that my accolades towards him may be somewhat misplaced, but when he said the following,  “MY ANGER IS FUELED BY A LOVE FOR THIS GREAT COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE”, I responded by saying to him, I have issue with the people who are just angry for the sake of being angry and are narcissists exploiting the political climate. So accolades remain in place.

The other incident tells another story.  It involves someone I first called a friend in my teens and someone I reconnected with over the past 5-10 years.  Over the years this person has expressed a total lack of tolerance for anyone holding a different view, to the point of accusing Jews such as myself with different views from his as being as dangerous as those who clearly want to kill the Jewish people.  Despite how offensive that concept is to me, I remained close enough to at least view his remarks and occasionally interact. When I expressed a view that I was willing to show objectivity in the name of fairness and what is good for the country, even though I was on “the other side”, I got the following response.  You’re right: a candidate with openly close anti Semitic and anti Zionist aides, advisors and financiers would have been better, David.  There is no other side , just like there is no other side of a cliff. One side your on the cliff and the other side is off the cliff. Voting for Jew haters would be the latter, especially from a child of Holocaust survivors. Attack you ? Pshaw, nothing I could say could undermine you more than your own actions.  

Soon after this post I chose to unfriend this individual.  Why? Not because we held different political views, not because he was almost vicious in how he expressed them when the stakes were at their highest, but because even now, when for all intents and purposes he got the change he wanted, he still spews angry venom, and at this stage of the game it is clearly more about his personal and deep anger than it is about ideology, and I have no desire for that in my life.

That being said, I also have no use for criminals.  If you vandalize stores, attack law enforcement or take violent action against any fellow human being, your protest means nothing to me.  You are not fighting for any cause other than to fight.  I have always felt that fighting for a purpose is not only justified, it is often righteous.  Fighting as a means of releasing anger or hate or merely out of the love of fighting is the furthest thing from righteous. It’s more often than not meaningless and destructive.

I urge all people to continue to fight for what they believe in, as I intend to.  What no one should tolerate is a fight fueled by hate and anger, for whether it comes from the left or the right, that fight ends in destruction and often catastrophe.  Unite, express and fight, but do so with respect and love for your country and fellow human being, and in doing so your fight will have more meaning and purpose.

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Today I’m Sad, but open to suggestion

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Let me make something very clear. I love America. I may have not done as much for it as some, but I am someone who has always been proud of my country.  Part of what makes me proud is the fact that I live in a country where I have the right to share my opinions and feelings openly.  When I woke up this morning, as someone who finds the specter of a Trump presidency hard to accept, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. I wondered if I’d be angry, scared, frustrated.  Maybe even shocked.  I was none of those things.  What I was instead was profoundly sad.  Sad because it felt to me as though this country had taken a huge step backwards, or even worse, it made me wonder if Trump was right.  Maybe America isn’t that great.  All that being said, I am very open and hopeful I end up being very wrong, even though today it’s very hard for me to imagine that being the case.

My sadness is not specifically about Donald Trump.  It’s about the country as a whole.  It was impossible for me to imagine that this nation I love and respect so much would elect a man who has said  the things he said, ridiculed the people he has ridiculed, and given life and excitement to the worst elements of society would be chosen as my next president. Nevertheless that is exactly what happened.  And it didn’t just barely happen. Donald Trump’s victory was quite convincing and shockingly resounding.  I kept replaying in my head his mocking of the handicapped man, his attack on Megyn Kelly after the first debate, his stupid nicknames for his opponents and his initial refusal to disavow David Duke and I became even more sad. Sad that more than a few people were willing to elect him to the highest office in the land.  Sad that we have become so much of a Reality TV culture that a man who exemplified that culture had achieved such power.  I saw a picture of young ones who mean a lot to me and wondered what this country, my country I have loved so much had done , what kind of future they were being given and I became even more sad.  I made a comment on social media exposing my feelings and the response I got from a Trump supporter was “grow a pair”.  That made me even more sad, not because I can’t take it, of course I can, but because it was one more reason I found the idea of President Trump even more difficult to accept.  It was bringing out the mean in people, and there are many people who will have a lot more difficult of a time time dealing with that type of reaction than I did may just be forced into silence.  But I mostly felt sad because as much as I love America, I woke up this morning loving her a little less than I did the day before the election.  Even with the fact that this was a result of America’s freedom, I still felt how I felt, and nothing made me more sad than that did.

All that being said, I not only hope I am terribly mistaken, I want to see that I am as soon as possible.  I am open to learning my feelings are wrong.  Hopeful that the element within Trump’s base that is motivated by hate and bigotry is so small they get lost in the crowd of hard-working Americans who just want a better life.  Hopeful that our next president will truly be a president for the whole country and take into account the issues that matter to everyone, not just the conservative element in our society.  Hopeful that as disgusting as some of his comments were, Trump only spoke as he did to get elected and that he will be a leader that shows judgment and decency.

I’m sad today because it doesn’t feel like that’s very likely, but hopeful because I have to be that way.  Because if I’m right, we’ve all lost, not just those who hoped for a different outcome.  I believe in supporting our president and will do so with an open mind, hoping that when all is said and done that I was wrong and that we as a country will be at worst OK.  If that happens I will be significantly happier than if I am right, and I am very open to that outcome.

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Open Letter to the American voter on the Eve of the Election

menow

Dear Fellow Americans,

Although many reading this may know where my vote is going, this letter is about something far more important than anyone’s personal choice for the next President of the United States.  On November 8, one of the cornerstones of American freedom and democracy takes center stage as the people go to the ballot boxes and choose their next Commander in Chief. There is no question that this day, a day that is always vital, is even more critical in 2016.  However, what possibly separates this election cycle from so many others is that as crucial as November 8th is, a very solid argument can be made that there is a day far more important, and that is the next day, November 9th.

Even many staunch supporters of Trump and Clinton feel that the country is in big trouble. Many feel that this election is an embarrassment.  The world has been watching and they love to say that we Americans have made fools of ourselves with our choices and our attacks on each other. Well I am here to say otherwise.  I am writing this letter to all Americans who genuinely want a better country. As critical as the choice is on November 8, and as uncertain as our future is, we as Americans have a choice that is even more critical than for who we cast our ballot.  That choice is whether or not we are prepared to work together as a nation in support of the next president.  That choice is to show the rest of the world who we really are, not who they like to believe us to be.

I know how the biggest critics feel about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  It’s been well-documented, highly publicized, and discussed ad-nauseum.  But on November 9th, assuming the election has a clear enough outcome to declare a winner, people all over the great United States have an opportunity to heal the nation.  To continue bashing the other side and sit back and type nasty comments online and come up with silly names about the candidate you didn’t want after the election, will just prove the naysayers right.  When the Supreme Leader of Iran uses this election to declare that America’s choices and behavior during this election proves Iran to be right, it is our responsibility to use November 9th to prove how wrong he actually is by showing how right the American system is.  Show the world that peaceful democracy and a free society creates dispute, but ends in peaceful coexistence.

I’m reminded of my father, may he rest in peace.  I won’t speak for my siblings, but in my case, when my father was vehemently opposed to one of my life choices he would push very hard to do things the way he felt I should do them.  Would he get mad at me if I wasn’t seeing it his way?  If the issue was important enough, most definitely. Would he make it very clear that he felt I was making a mistake? Unquestionably.  However, those times when I chose not to listen, once I made the choice, even if he was unhappy with my choice, he supported me in my decision.  Sometimes he was right, sometimes I was, but every time I came out loving him even more.  Why?  Because when it’s important enough to you and those you care about, you may show passion for your choice, but the true indication of love is to continue to show support whether or not someone listens to you or not and regardless of whether or not they share your passion.  I got that from my father.

On November 9th Americans have an opportunity to show their true love of country. Granted it will be easier for those on the side of the winner, but the opportunity exists nonetheless.  The winning side must be prepared to genuinely welcome the other in building and healing the country.  Although each side has different philosophies on how to move the country and the world forward, a totally one-sided agenda from the winning party’s candidate will alienate too many others who voted for the opposition, and nothing will be more important on November 9th than a country moving towards unity.

It is a common thing in life for people to blame their problems on others.  Humanity does that on an individual level and as a people.  The truth is that many problems can be resolved by doing what is right and working hard towards making things happen.  This election is no different.  As important as it is, upwards of at least 40% of the voting populous will not get the candidate they want. These people will be left with 2 choices. Continue to fight the opposition and set this country back decades with more infighting and obstruction, or join forces and find a middle ground most, if not all people can agree on.

There is a populous movement in this country.  This populism has taken form on both the conservative and liberal side of the aisle.  There are some fundamental disagreements on policies.  That being said the overall lesson to be learned by the populist movement is that the people are more involved than they have been in the past.  But involvement is not enough.  This involvement must coincide with responsibility, and that responsibility is towards the common good, something that can only be reached by working together and yes, supporting your next president regardless of who gets elected.

As easy and therapeutic as it will be to insult the President-elect if that person was not the one you voted for, like so many other things in life the right thing to do is not always the easy thing to do.  So it comes down to this.  I don’t care if you hate one candidate so much that the very though of them becoming the next president makes you sick to your stomach.  What I care about is the future of this country and the rest of the world, and regardless of who wins, for better or for worse we are far better off if we support our next president.  That is something I will do.  Not because I consider all options to be acceptable, but because the only way this works is if we get behind that president and grow together as a nation.  If we do not do that then all of this will have been for nothing.  To me that is far less acceptable than my candidate losing.

Fight for what you believe in.  Fight for what you feel is right.  But at the end of the day do what it right for your country, and that means supporting its leadership, even if it wasn’t the leadership you chose.  Tomorrow I will support my candidate. On Wednesday I will support the next President of the United States.

But first get up tomorrow I will do what I hope all of you will do.  I will get out and vote.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Trump puts Democracy on Notice

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Whenever I make the case against Donald Trump, I am subject to a barrage of, “what about Hillary” comments. As a Jewish American and strong supporter of Israel I’ve often been asked by those who oppose Hillary Clinton how I can choose her over Donald Trump.  Even if I am to  accept that she is not a friend of Israel, something I do not necessarily accept and another discussion irrelevant to my point, my answer has always been as follows.  A weakened American democracy is something that puts the whole world in danger and is something far more perilous for Israel than a president that does not support her.

This is no longer about which candidate you prefer to win on November 8th.  This is now about the future of democracy in the United States of America.  It is dishonest and irresponsible to put Donald Trump’s answers in convenient vacuums.  When the Republican nominee for president indicated at the 3rd and final debate that he would decide after the election on November 8th whether or not he would accept the outcome, this was not an isolated answer.  This was an answer from a man who is pushing a populist movement based on discontent, scapegoating and anger.  This is an answer from a man who has mocked people from almost every ethnic group.  It’s a man who has fired up the extreme right wing of the country. In his answer about the importance of the Supreme Court he honed in on the 2nd Amendment while once “joking” about how supporters of the 2nd Amendment could take matters into their own hands in stopping Hillary Clinton. I take umbrage with the comparison of Trump to Hitler, simply because you can’t compare a man who makes volatile and irresponsible statements to a murderous dictator guilty of the murder of millions of people including the slaughter of 6 million Jewish men, women and children.  However,that being said, that doesn’t mean any of this is good for democracy. That doesn’t take away from from his glib suggestion that his supporters take out his major opposition.

Trump is a high stakes gambler.  He personally has very little to lose by his effort to be president.  The problem is he’s been playing with house money, which in this case means the future of the country.   The only way what Trump has done turns out to be good for the country is if he wins and does a phenomenal job.  Two things that are seen as highly unlikely to a large segment of the American population.  For argument sake however, let’s play this out.  Trump wins, appoints the best advisers, defeats ISIS, stabilizes the Middle East, strengthens relationships with our allies, and orchestrates an historic economic boom.  If this were to happen, not only would American democracy be strengthened, the Republican Party would survive their organizational catastrophe.  As an American, should the unexpected happen and Mr. Trump does win, I hope and pray it plays out this way. Problem is, I am quite certain it won’t.

Of course as most polls show, it is unlikely Donald Trump will win.  But even if we allow that to be considered as a possibility, the demeanor and temperament he has displayed throughout this campaign has to be concerning to anyone looking at this with a level head. I know his surrogates and ardent supporters will make excuses for everything he’s said and allegedly done, but that doesn’t change any of the facts.  Corey Lewandowski and Kayleigh Mcenany can spend all day saying “what Mr. Trump was saying is….”, but that will never actually change the candidate’s words.  And words hold power. Not everything can be blamed on political correctness and not being a typical politician.  Most significantly, telling a debate moderator that “I’ll keep you in suspense” as to whether or not he will accept the will of the people and respect the peaceful transfer of power has nothing to do with being a New Yorker or an anti-establishment candidate.  It has more to do with an inability to accept defeat as an option.  That happens to be quality I love in an athlete and to some extent see as a positive in a political figure, but that does not mean Mr. Trump’s inability to accept defeat supersedes the will of the American voter or a political system that has worked for 240 years.  And let’s be honest and say what is on everyone’s mind and is everyone’s ultimate concern.  Trump’s refusal to agree to accept the outcome until he sees what happens is just short of incitement to riot and undermines the very core of American democracy.  His supporters have already shown that he can say anything he wants and they will still listen to him.  What happens if he loses, claims the election is rigged, and tells his supporters to take to the streets in protest?  The United States of America may face a problem greater than any it has faced in its history.

How is that possible you may ask?  Simply put, even in the face of the greatest threats, the most incompetent leadership, or the greatest discontent of the populous, America has always been able to rest its head on one basic fact. It has, at least functioned on the perceived principal of democracy.  It’s impossible to give full credit to a nation that once considered slavery legal, but even then it was a country that respected its system.  That respect held it together and allowed it to grow from a place where black slaves helped build the White House to a place where a black man resides in it as President of the United States.  Politics aside, I believe any reasonable and decent person has to see the beauty in a system that allows for that kind of growth.

I fear that Donald Trump’s America has a danger of damaging that freedom to grow.  I don’t know what is in the man’s heart and what his true intentions are. There are people I like and respect who think he is doing this for selfless reasons.  Others believe he is doing this to attain the greatest power, either for personal benefit or at worse, anarchy and destruction.  I don’t know the answer, but I do know that his words have put a dent in our democracy greater than any put by any of our external foes, because the more Mr. Trump falls behind the more he pivots from challenging the establishment to challenging the system.  He does this in what appears to be an effort to mold the system to his liking and his benefit, something that terrifies many for one very important reason.  Even a system with a corrupt establishment within its ranks is better than a country running on one individual’s idea of what the system should be.  A system running the way only one person wants it to run is nothing short of a dictatorship.

This election has transcended Republican against Democrat, Conservative against Liberal, or Trump against Clinton.  This election is now a referendum on the democratic system that has held this country together for almost 2 and a half centuries, and regardless of the outcome, that is something that should concern and disturb many American citizens because it should never have gotten to this point in the first place. When this election is over, if the democracy remains in tact, the challenge of leadership, media and all concerned citizens is to find out why.  Otherwise it will only get worse.

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