I’m Leaving the Trump Administration

I’m announcing today that I’m resigning from my position in the Trump Administration. I just can’t in good conscience continue working with a president who encouraged the destructive riot that took place at the Capitol this week. 

Many of you may not have known that I’ve been working for the Trump Administration. That’s because I’ve shared information about my position on a need-to-know basis. However, now that my work has ended, I feel I can be open about the role I played. That noted, I’m not one to dwell on the past. I prefer to keep my focus on the future. And I believe my future will be better now that my resume will show potential employers that I left my role in the Trump Administration as soon as I recognized that working for an unhinged narcissistic psychopath is untenable. 

Still, in case the Trumps make a comeback, I want to say that someone from Antifa may have rewritten parts of this resignation announcement—and that I’m proud to have served in the Trump administration, and of our many accomplishments. These include operating the most profitable web-based presidential gift shop ever and cutting way back on the wasteful presidential traditions of hosting championship sports teams at the White House and throwing out the first pitch on opening day of the baseball season. 

So as I say, I’m leaving, but I’m not gone yet as I just gave my two-week notice on Jan. 6. If you need to reach me, I’ll be in the office until about noon on Jan. 20. I’ll know more about my whereabouts after that when I learn the status of my anticipated presidential pardon. Fingers crossed!

Photo at the top of the page By Tyler Merbler – https://www.flickr.com/photos/37527185@N05/50812356151/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98637757

The Non-Handoff Handoff

Handoffs seem straightforward. Something moves from here to there, a point-to-point transaction that limits room for error. 

I recall getting instruction on making a good handoff for only one situation. That was in baseball. I was a shortstop teaming with the second baseman on double plays whereby the one who catches the ground ball flips it to the other, who steps on second base and throws to first, while the oncoming runner tries to bowl him over. My coach’s instruction was that when you catch the ground ball, immediately take it out of your glove and “show it” to your partner. 

It’s a small consideration but it helps ensure a smooth transition. It was one of many small things we learned—like when there’s a pause in the action don’t stand on the infield dirt but on the grass where it’s 10 degrees cooler. Those small things add up and no doubt contributed to our team’s dominating record. 

Likewise the handoff between presidential administrations improves its odds for success if both parties are transparent—the equivalent of showing the ball. 

The first presidential transition I recall noticing was in January 2001, when the outgoing Clinton administration gave way to George W. Bush. A story I read then in The New York Times—and I seem to remember it on page one, below the fold—claimed that the Clinton team had vandalized the White House offices on its way out, including removing the W’s (the incoming president’s middle initial) from keyboards. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer described his reaction to reporters with a clever quip: “It would have been ‘Wow,’ but the ‘W’ was removed, so now it’s just ‘O.'”

A few months later these reports were shown to be at best an exaggeration—possibly a falsehood. The General Accounting Office reported as much as $14,000 in damages, but noted that some were the result of normal wear and tear, and that it couldn’t determine if the obvious pranks were more or less than occur in every presidential transition. (Who knew about that tradition?). Salon called it, “The White House vandal scandal that wasn’t.” Kind of like an alternative reality. This one pranked the national media into trashing the Clinton administration while delivering an opportunity for the Bushies to highlight that they had a different way of governing, sans the frat boy frolics. 

That incident foreshadowed the Bush administration’s modus operandi.  Just two years later, they perpetrated a reality that offered an alternative to U.S. intelligence findings, that Iraq had ties to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The claim helped the Bush team justify starting the war on Iraq. You probably know how that turned out. 

Donald Trump has taken alternative realities to new places, and like Bush he set the tone right out of the gate when his press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that the Trump inauguration had the largest attendance ever, denying what was clear in photographs, that the Obama inauguration crowd was bigger. Such is Trump’s management style, demanding loyal and enthusiastic support of unsupportable alternative realities. 

Now 13 senators and 140 house representatives (at last count) say that when Congress meets tomorrow (Jan. 6), they will support the lame-duck president’s claims about election fraud by refusing to confirm the electoral votes that give President-Elect Joe Biden the election victory. 

How ever this objection gets resolved, the manner in which the presidential handoff has been jerked from its simple point-to-point moorings doesn’t bode well for the future of the Federal government nor for us, the people some in government seek to serve. 

Photo at the top of the page shows what was roughly Donald Trump’s view of the 58th presidential inauguration, a view that convinced him it was the largest inauguration crowd in history.

For-Profit Company Paying CEO $4.5 Million Seeks Donations

Was I the only one who had to pinch himself and squeal to know it was for real when reading that the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle was seeking donations to support its local reporting (Dec. 13)? 

Hey, I’m sympathetic. Digitalization has been a tough transition for traditional newspapers. They are losing revenue. Reporters are losing their jobs. And especially in this era when lies masquerade as truth at the highest levels of government, we need good reporting—like this story about our mayor in today’s paper. 

If the D&C needs new ways to generate revenue, well, the donation model has worked for the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio. But it’s a tough transition for the commercial, for-profit media to make. For one thing, PBS and NPR already own that lane. Is it wide enough to support others? More to the point, who will give to a for-profit company that’s based out of town (in this case, the McLean, Va.-based Gannett Co., Inc.), has a reputation for taking sometimes ruthless leadership cues from the finance team, and last year reportedly presented its CEO with a $4.5 million annual compensation package?

Prospective donors might wonder, have they asked their CEO to give? Subscribers might ask why they now face the double jeopardy of also making donations. Readers might ask whether or not they can trust the D&C to actually turnaround its decades long trend of cutting back on local reporting, donations or no donations. 

What it comes down to is that the D&C needs more than what it gets from subscriptions, advertising, obituary listing fees—and donations from its CEO. That costs are rising has been evident for years as I watched my subscription price grow from $174.20 in 1999 to a proposed $500-plus in 2018. That proposal spurred me to discover that the annual subscription price quoted on the D&C web site was less than what they asked of me, a loyal subscriber of many years. 

It was as if they viewed me as a sucker. 

I still value the D&C, but there are a lot of good reasons to not donate to them. I’d be more inclined to donate to local reporters who are managed locally with limited overhead and a knack for matching the budget with local reporting needs. 

But with Trump still soliciting (and getting!) campaign donations more than a month after the election ended, perhaps the timing is right for dubious donation pleas. So if you’d like to help out a for-profit company that pays its CEO $4.5 million a year, here’s the donation link: https://bit.ly/37e6iG9.

On the other hand, if you really want to do something good for the local community, you could give that money instead to Foodlink, which applies 96 cents of every dollar donated directly to food-related programs supporting the area’s hungry. Or if you are itching to support local reporters who are managed locally, you could give to WXXI, our local PBS and NPR affiliate. (Full disclosure: I have relatives who work there.) 

Really, if you’ve got money to donate, there are a lot of good alternatives.

The photo at the top of the page is by FOTO:FORTEPAN / Magyar Hírek folyóirat, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51007835

How Hank Aaron Became My Favorite Baseball Player

I picked Hank Aaron as my favorite baseball player in 1959 when I was five years old. I’m pretty sure about the year because I’m pretty sure the data I used to guide me was on his 1959 Topps baseball card. At the time baseball was at the center of my life with the neighborhood kids. Most were older than me, and they all had favorite players, like Mickey Mantle. Spittle would spatter from Bobby Gilmore’s mouth when he spoke Mantle’s name. It meant that much. 

I wanted a favorite player, too, but I didn’t know how you get one. I was aware of only one guiding principal: your favorite player is on your favorite team. So mine was on the Milwaukee Braves, an unusual choice in the Yankee country I grew up in. I now assume they were my favorite team because my parents were from Boston, where the Braves originated. I don’t recall my Dad ever pushing me towards the Braves or even mentioning them. I surmised later in life that as a kid he was more a Braves fan than Red Sox fan, and even that I never heard him say directly. 

The Braves excellent uniform shirt of my youth shows well in the 1961 Hank Aaron card.

Regardless, the Braves were an easy team to like in 1959. They beat the Yankees in the ‘57 World Series, lost to them in the ‘58 Series, and they were in the thick of the pennant race again in ‘59. Plus they had the best uniforms, with the embroidered tomahawk across the chest, the laughing Brave on the sleeve, the hat with blue top and red brim, and the extensive piping that even traced the players’ belt loops. 

So my quest for a favorite player was narrowed down to a single 25-man roster—actually to a handful of the team’s better players. 

How to pick one? In those days of one televised game a week, we had little to go on. I remember asking one of the older guys for advice. His response: you can judge how good a player is by the number at the bottom of the third column from the right on the back of his baseball card. (That’s his home run total.)

The circled number on the back of this 1959 Hank Aaron baseball card was the basis for my decision to make him my favorite player.

I didn’t fully trust this advice. Home runs aren’t even a stat for pitchers, so they were all ruled out. And what about all those other numbers? They must mean something, too. But the older guys knew more than I did, and I had nothing else to go by. So I checked the home run totals on my cards. 

Using that criteria, you’d think Hank Aaron would have been a lock, given that he eventually broke Babe Ruth’s record for career home runs. But at that time, Aaron was in only his sixth year, and his 140 home runs put him third on the team behind third baseman Eddie Mathews with 253 and first baseman Joe Adcock at 156. 

So why did I pick Aaron? I have 1959 baseball cards of Mathews and Adcock, so I would have seen that their home run totals were greater than Aaron’s. Maybe I hadn’t gotten those cards yet when I made the decision? Maybe I didn’t trust that home runs alone could determine the best player and there was some intangible that made me go for Aaron? I don’t remember. But I do remember getting confirmation from an older guy that Aaron’s totals made him a “good” player. That was the stamp of approval that finalized my decision.  

In retrospect, I’m fascinated that my pseudo scientific approach landed me on the guy who broke one of baseball’s most cherished records. And that despite starting with a rather mild commitment, I quickly came to obsess over him, the way you’re supposed to obsess over your favorite player. He had a great career, and his playing days lasted into my early 20s, about the time my baseball passions began to wane (they returned later in life), so our baseball peaks aligned pretty well. And I got to see him play twice, in the 1961 All Star Game at Fenway Park, Boston, and in the 1963 Hall of Fame Game against the Boston Red Sox in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he homered with a line drive that just cleared the left field fence while playing in a lineup that included his younger brother, Tommie.

I’m also fascinated that in the very year (1959) when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox to finally integrate every major league baseball team, when racial segregation was still the rule for many public accommodations in the South, I chose a Black man as my favorite player. Apparently in Hank Aaron’s baseball card picture I saw nothing but a great player. I had no preconceptions based on race, no awareness of racial stereotypes.

Yes, growing up in an all-white suburb as I did, I would learn the stereotypes soon enough. But the memory of choosing to align with Hank Aaron preceded all that. And he delivered in a much bigger way than I or anyone else expected. I still keep this in my mind. Like a touchstone. 

Image at the top of the page is a 1959 Topps baseball card showing Hank Aaron, hitting a home run in the fourth game of the 1957 World Series. The other player pictured is Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who was my older brother, Scott’s, favorite player at the time, making this a pretty special card in our family. Image at the bottom of the page is from my neighborhood.

Free Advice From Our Dog Mersey

This morning, our dog Mersey did what she always does when she sees us grab the harness before a walk. She ran away.

That’s unusual in dog world. Most dogs see you give even the faintest sign that a walk is nigh, and they bound to the door tail a-wagging. And Mersey does love her walks, it’s the harness she claims to dislike. We use it because she can be a pretty strong puller, and the harness helps us control that. When we first introduced it to her as a puppy, she objected, shaking and pawing at it when we first put it on. But in a few moments she’d adjust to it and have a normal walk. After a few days even the early discomfort disappeared. Only the I-won’t-let-you-put-the-harness-on rebellion ritual remained. 

She can pull if off because our ground floor has a circular layout from front-door foyer to kitchen to family room and back to foyer. Mersey takes advantage of that when she sees the harness, moving quickly to the open doorway between the kitchen and the family room, then watching us to see which way we’re going. Of course we try to preempt this by surprising her with the harness before our hand has been tipped that it’s walk time. But sometimes we fail. If both my wife and I are involved, we’ll take opposite directions to close in on her. Another option is to shut the door between the kitchen and family room to create a dead end. As we close in, Mersey recognizes she’s trapped and is pretty quick to concede, standing still while we slip on and snap in the harness. 

Then she’s an obedient girl, scurrying to the door in exaggeratedly awkward form, head down, legs stiff. At the door she sits unmoving until the door opens, when she magically transforms back into her public persona as a fluid, shapely, upbeat greeter of all comers. 

She likes to play games, but she knows when the jig is up.

She can be available free of charge to advise our lame-duck President Trump should he need help in such matters. 

Photo at top of page: By conceding to put on her harness this morning, Mersey was able to enjoy peak foliage and unusual 70-degree temperatures in Rochester’s Highland Park. 

I Voted Today

I don’t have a lot of memories about voting. I can’t even remember my voting locations from most years, let alone call up a mental image or anecdote. 

The school where I voted in 2016.

But in recent years I’ve had a few voting moments that have stayed with me. In 2008, I voted for Barack Obama at a school built on the lot where Frederick Douglas had lived in Rochester, N.Y., making my vote that day feel especially momentous.

And in 2016 I stood in a long line at Mount Hope Cemetery to place my “I Voted Today” sticker on Susan B. Anthony’s gravestone. That’s a tradition in Rochester, where Susan B. lived, but the Woodstock-like atmosphere that developed at the site that day was something new. It was a spontaneous celebration anticipating that Hillary Clinton was about to become the first woman president. 

Susan B. Anthony gravestone Nov. 8, 2016

We all know how that turned out. 

Today (Oct. 24) was the beginning of early voting in New York State. Given the pandemic, I had applied for and received a mail-in ballot. But I decided not to use it, to instead join my wife for a ceremonial morning of waiting in line and voting on this first day, with others who were equally anxious to have their voices heard. 

We arrived at a nearby polling place in Genesee Park a little before noon and got in line. Understand that around here, we’re not accustomed to waiting in line to vote. Maybe that’s one reason I don’t have a lot of voting memories. We literally walk in, go straight to the person who checks your voter registration, then vote. It’s over in minutes —seconds if you have an especially efficient registration person. 

The line at our polling place, Oct. 24, 2020.

So this was something different, granting us some level of kinship with those in other states who wait as long as eight hours (or more?) to vote. As it turned out, our line was kind of festive. A band played funky jazz for the voters in waiting. League of Women Voters representatives walked about offering free water and granola bars. The woman in front of us shared how she had a mail-in ballot and decided to bring it here on the first day, to be sure it gets delivered. The guy behind us was having a birthday party tonight, and you could only drink beer if you showed your “I Voted Today” sticker. 

This trio performed for the line of voters.

After about 30 or 40 minutes, we got into the voting room, where one of the registration ladies called out, “This man is voting for the first time,” eliciting a big cheer.

We cast our ballots, then went out to brunch where my wife read an online anecdote that struck a chord. A person was driving by a group of people waiting in line to vote and called out, “How long have you been waiting?” One person shouted back: “Four years.”

A big cheer went up.

Where is All This Going?

This is a scary time in the United States as the population struggles with a global pandemic and the resulting economic crisis while the president exacerbates both by promoting policies for an alternate reality. 

Some suggest we are “sleepwalking toward economic catastrophe” (Vox, July 20), approaching a fiscal cliff of serious devastation as pandemic unemployment insurance payments and rent and mortgage forgiveness are ending. 

I’m going to say we can still make a few maneuvers to avoid that cliff. Here are some predictions on how these and other crises will play out over the next year. 

Sept. 29, 2020—Joe Biden emerges from his basement for the first presidential debate at the University of Notre Dame sans sports jacket and reveals that he’s been pumping iron all summer. “What are we doin’ here?” he asks in his opening remarks. “Nobody wants to hear us yakking about policy. Let’s settle this mano a mano. Donald J. Trump, I challenge you to an arm wrestling contest.” Trump accepts. After a TV commercial the match takes place, but the man Biden arm wrestles appears to be Congressional Representative and former college wrestling champion Jim Jordan in orange facial makeup and a clown wig. After deadlocking for 30 seconds, Biden slams Trump/Jordan’s arm to the desk and celebrates his win by shredding a “Make America Great Again” hat with his teeth.

Nov. 5, 2020—Following his overwhelming electoral win, president-elect Joe Biden admits that the coronavirus pandemic was a hoax, concocted by Democrats to defeat Donald Trump. Thousands of the coronavirus “dead” come out of isolation to rejoin their families. The formerly late John Prine charts his first No. 1 single, written during his isolation, offering his humorous yet melancholy social commentary on his near-death experience.

Dec. 25, 2020—Google releases a new app that enables people to change their skin color and accompanying physical characteristics at will to optimize performance in job interviews, dance contests, college admission tests and other endeavors. The Black Lives Matter movement puts all actions on hold while it assesses the app.

Dec. 29, 2020—In Week 16 of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills defeat the New England Patriots for the second time this fall, 35-14, to retain their perfect 15-0 record. The team’s bid to become only the third undefeated team in NFL history ends that same day, as Covid roster decimation peaks. All remaining games—including Super Bowl LV—are cancelled. 

Jan. 19, 2021—Donald Trump and his family are escorted from the White House by armed members of the U.S. Military after concluding his exit negotiations granting him immunity from prosecution for all crimes he has committed. Iconic video shows Trump riding up the escalator at Trump Tower, perfectly bookending oft-shown video of him riding down the escalator to announce his run for the presidency. 

Jan. 20, 2021—Immediately following Joe Biden’s inauguration, Ruth Bader Ginsburg announces that she died Dec. 21, 2019. Following her announcement, she high fives Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, proclaiming, “Dude! We out-McConnelled McConnell!” 

May 6, 2021—Troubling news from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka moved after months of being refused admission to every club, party and restaurant in the New York Metropolitan area. Kushner is fired from his job as manger of the Subway Restaurant on East 15th Street over accusations of engaging in child pornography. Kushner’s defense: “That was the other Jared.” 

July 4, 2021—Donald J. Trump shoots someone on Fifth Avenue. His lawyers claim immunity from prosecution, but a trial ensues and the former president is sentenced to life in prison. His sentence includes an unusual stipulation that a 24X7 webcam is required to be operational at all times in Trump’s cell. Without makeup and tailored clothing, the camera reveals that Trump’s skin is an ashen grayish-pink, his scalp balding with patchy clumps of thinning white hair and his belly voluminous. He looks old and defeated. 24X7.

Photos at the top of the page, left to right:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, public domain

John Prine, public domain

Joe Biden, public domain

Donald Trump, public domain

Duke_Williams photo by Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37284151

Jared Fogle photo by IlliniGradResearch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7469782

So Congress Broke the Law When It Took Down My Healthcare Insurer

One of the few times in the last two decades when my monthly health insurance payments decreased from year to year was in 2015, when a new kind of health insurer appeared on the Rochester, N.Y. scene. Health Republic was a cooperative health insurance company, reportedly formed by a bunch of freelancers like me who were tired of seeing their health insurance premiums rise by double digits every year. Recognizing an opportunity created under Obamacare, these New York City-based entrepreneurs put their money where their mouth was. 

I was totally sympathetic to their story—a story that would have glazed me over before I became a freelancer. I remember my boss at a small public relations firm complaining about the rising costs of health insurance in the 1980s. I never saw the numbers, never saw what they did to my salary and the company’s expense ledger. It meant nothing to me. 

That changed when I became a freelancer in 1996 and became responsible for my own healthcare insurance. At the time I thought I was fortunate to be in a city President Clinton had held up as a model of how healthcare should be done, and it seemed to work. In the year 2000, I was paying only $163.99 a month for health insurance coverage that required just $15 co-pays for doctor visits.  

But my healthcare heaven soon evaporated. After two decades of increases, many at double-digit percentages, my monthly healthcare bill last year was 2.24 times higher than in 2000, and for that I paid full price on nearly all of my doctor visits. 

Outpacing My Wage Increases

Over that time, my hourly rate increased by much less, just 1.42 percent. Only my property taxes came close to keeping pace with healthcare costs. They doubled. But that’s deceptive. The city services my taxes paid for held steady, while my healthcare insurance now covered mainly my catastrophic needs. An equivalent change from the city might have required me to clear the snow from the city road in front of my house for snowfalls of less than 12 inches. (Don’t get any ideas, Mayor Warren!)

Our savings with Health Republic in 2015 weren’t huge, dropping just $3.33 from $502.62 to $499.29. But when Health Republic was forced to close late in the year, we had to sign up with Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield for December at $602.32 per month, a $100+ increase. 

The reason Health Republic had to liquidate was that the Republican-led Congress refused to allocate the funding the company was owed, as prescribed under Obamacare. The law stated that participating health insurers would receive Federal funding to cover losses when premium payments fell short of medical expenses. (The companies were also required to pay some of any profits they gained to the government.) That law no longer stands, but in those early days, it helped ease health insurance companies into a fledgling market not knowing how many people would sign up. 

This past Monday, April 27, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 8-1 that Congress broke the law when its payments to multiple insurers came up $12 billion short. On a court that’s packed with conservatives, many of whom appear to be sympathetic with Republican (and anti-Obamacare) causes, that’s a definitive judgment.  

The Damage Done

This unlawful act resulted in Health Republic and a handful of other newly formed healthcare cooperatives getting less than 13 cents on the dollar of their promised Federal funding, according to an article in The New York Times. Many were forced to cease operation, and they won’t be coming back. Careers were sidetracked, and consumers were harmed, including me, not just because we had to pay higher prices that December, but because we lost a potential source of lower cost healthcare insurance moving forward. 

That was depressing. And it’s a reminder that the current administration didn’t pioneer disregard for the law at the highest levels, nor is it the first to go unpunished for unlawful acts. 

Today, Health Republic can be found at this website, where the company has been reduced to a stark legalese description of its process for liquidation and repayment of creditors. At the time I’m posting this, one FAQ response reads, “It is not yet known how long the liquidation proceeding will last due to, among other things, lack of certainty regarding the timing and amount of potential recoveries by Health Republic from programs established by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

I’d like to think that the U.S. Supreme Court decision delivers the certainty that Health Republic has been seeking since 2015, but actually it doesn’t. Now the Mitch McConnell-led Senate must decide whether or not it will abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

Photo of the inside of the Supreme Court by Phil Roeder – Flickr: Supreme Court of the United States, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32650356

Another Journey Begins at the Tabard

It was just a coincidence that we stayed in the Tabard Inn in Washington the night before the 2020 Women’s March. A Middle Ages hostelry by that same name in Southwark, London was a popular starting point for pilgrimages to Canterbury and was indeed the starting point for the pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales

And as in Chaucer’s story, our weekend was organized around meeting with people who told us their tales—in this case, old friends and relatives. A Friday dinner with cousins in Gettysburg, a pre-march breakfast with another cousin, a post-march late lunch with friends from upstate New York and then drinks with other friends from Baltimore—closing it out Sunday meeting a nephew for brunch. If our friend Steve Miller had made it, we would have even had a Miller’s Tale. 

Sandwiched in between was the march, an upbeat gathering that mostly distracted us from the chilly, sometimes drizzly weather that day. I had an SLR camera around my neck, an iPhone in my pocket and a sign in my hand, juggling between documenter and participant—a common approach in this march. 

Here’s a taste of the Women’s March in Washington, Jan. 18, 2020.
OMG—it’s Tracey!

Our biggest surprise came right off the bat, while milling about prior to the march. I moved in to photograph an eye-catching sign, when the person holding it called my name. It was Tracey Stamatel, our friend from Glens Falls, who is married to Tom, one of my best friends from high school. We shared our astonishment at happenstance and agreed to meet for a late lunch. 

We carried pretty great signs designed by my wife, Claire, and people often stopped us to take a photo. You know, like we were celebrities. One side of my sign depicted the president as Ronald McDonald, standing under a sign designed to look like the familiar restaurant’s, but phrased, “Donald’s, more than 15,000 lies told.” It was especially popular when we stopped in front of a McDonald’s Restaurant along the route. 

That’s Claire with two of the signs she designed, in front of a McDonald’s.

Many signs, chants and drumbeats later, the progression emptied into Lafayette Square across the street from the White House, and the marchers transitioned back to tourists and residents. They (and we) posed for photos holding their signs with the White House as a backdrop, engaged with the more hard core protesters who camp out in the park, and listened to a group of eccentrically dressed singers belt out popular songs that were refreshed with anti-Trump lyrics.

I didn’t catch the name of this a cappella group in Washington’s Lafayette Square singing popular songs with lyrics altered to remind us that Donald Trump is still the president.

Some marchers continued on to the Trump International Hotel, where loud chants like, “Lock him up,” rose up occasionally. Here I saw the only aggressive anti-march actions I encountered. (A number of anti-abortion protesters appeared along the route, but either protested silently or with the sort of non-stop, mindless preaching that is easy to ignore.) Here at the Trump Hotel, an anti-protestor was video recording, and when I caught up with him, a woman was telling him not to use the interview he’d apparently done with a 15 year-old girl (her daughter?). He was loudly and gleefully calling her a “retard,” insisting that he had the right to use any footage he shot in a public place. He seemed to enjoy flaunting the boorish behavior our president often employs. A number of people came to the woman’s defense, and we moved on. 

Not long after that we abandoned the dwindling masses and took a cab to our afternoon lunch. The march we’d made didn’t feel as bold as the one in 2017, when so many came out so soon after the president’s inauguration. This year, the president was to be called out officially in an impeachment trial just a few days after the event. And come November, he’ll be tested again by a general election. With those dates inked on the calendar, the 2020 Women’s March felt more like what Chaucer might have called a prologue. 

Setting Our New Raccoon Trap

A few days ago I bought a raccoon trap at a farm-supply store in rural Ontario County, where I stood in the line for the cashier behind a man wearing a bright red Make America Great Again hat. 

I was a little surprised as I stepped into the line to suddenly and reflexively feel revulsion toward this otherwise anonymous man. 

It reminded me of the time I was at a Woman’s World Cup soccer game between Germany and Norway in Ottawa, Canada, and I felt a sudden chill when a group of Germans sitting near us sang in out unison about Deutschland. No doubt I was flashing back to World War II films about Hitler, but my involuntary response made me feel a little sheepish. German fans were simply chanting the name of their team, as every national did at the World Cup. I knew that, but my subconscious mind evidently didn’t. Hmm.

The involuntary MAGA hat response, on the other hand, was to something that’s  current, a sign that my Trump revulsion is now hard wired. And I suppose it is. I find nothing persuasive in the “don’t impeach” arguments, no sympathy for supporting a president who digs in his heels while openly flaunting his corruption.

I want to believe he’s digging his heels into sand. But he’s not. The people wearing the MAGA hats are his bedrock, the foundation upon which he stands and from which he pushes back against perceived threats, which often are simply facts and truth. 

Still my revulsion to the man in the MAGA hat is a projection. Maybe he was wearing this hat because his usual John Deere cap got ripped in the shredder. Maybe he’s just a guy who’s tired of our stiff and bureaucratic government and gets a kick out of seeing someone make them uncomfortable. Maybe he’s not really paying attention to the news at all. 

I can relate to that. But whatever his reason for wearing the hat, I hope he awakens to our circumstances soon, because something is shifting beneath our feet. We just don’t know yet whether it’s sand or bedrock. 

In any event, I’ve got a trap now, and I’m determined to catch that varmint.