Cognitive Dissonance (or the World According to Trump)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a Bollywood-themed charity concert put on by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, New Jersey, U.S. October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2P03M

  • The media is beating Mr. Trump (by rigging the election) vs. Mr. Trump is capable of destroying ISIS, restoring law and order and safeguarding the National Security
  • They’re not nice and unfair vs. Mr. Trump is tough
  • Immigrants are bad vs. Trump gets to keep marrying them
  • Mrs. Clinton is a liar with a dangerous liberal agenda vs. the Podesta emails prove she is secretly pro-Wall Street, pro-fracking and pro-military intervention (ie, she is a closet Republican)
  • Central Park Five are guilty because they admitted to crime vs. Trump is not guilty even though he bragged about repeatedly committing sexual assault
  • Mrs. Clinton aided and abetted Mr. Clinton’s behavior as a sexual predator by standing by him vs. Mrs. Trump stands by her man and blames the media.
  • Big government, regulation and intervention are bad vs. police are always right, increase Stop & Frisk, build a wall and increase regulation of immigration.
  • Taking a knee is unpatriotic vs. claiming elections are rigged
  • Protesters are violent vs. Police responding with military equipment are keepers of the peace
  • You don’t like it, leave the country vs. Mr. Trump doesn’t like it, we should change the country
  • Christianity vs. Mr. Trump
  • Mr. Trump will be incredible vs. Mr. Trump’s campaign

For bonus points, if gaming the IRS makes you uniquely qualified to reform the tax system, would:

  • a misogynist and sexual predator be uniquely qualified to solve gender inequality?
  • an undocumented immigrant be uniquely qualified to reform immigration?
  • a jihadist be uniquely qualified to lead the fight against terrorism?
  • a drug dealer be uniquely qualified to lead the war on drugs?
  • a white supremacist be uniquely qualified to fight racism and antisemitism?
  • a corrupt official be uniquely qualified to fight political corruption?
  • the Ferguson police department be uniquely qualified to reform racist police practices?
  • a man who’s never been a locker room be uniquely qualified to engage in locker room talk?

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If You Vote for Trump, You Are No Longer Friend or Family


Looks like we‘ll need a Plan B if Trump is elected.

Canada may be the closest place in North America that Mr. Trump will allow my family. And I say this as a person who had to degrade himself by pretending to be Canadian just to get some in Europe during the Bush years.

In all seriousness, family and friends, please do not vote for Donald Trump. I understand and get that you may dislike, detest even, Hilary Clinton. I am certainly no fan of hers.


Think about it: besides Mr. Trump running a campaign centered fully on hate, fear and division, he has also pledged that if he becomes the next President of the United States of America, he will prohibit my wife and children from entering our country. That means that if you vote for Mr. Trump, you are saying that is is perfectly alright to:

  • prohibit my family from entering the U.S., and
  • never see any of us again.

I say “never see us again” because if you vote for him and I find out, you are not welcome in my home. I will take your vote for Trump as a personal rejection of me and my family.

If you don’t like Hilary, either vote for a third party candidate or just vote down ballot. If you are a Republican or a Conservative Christian, you know quite well that Trump is neither. He is a dishonest cheat in absolutely everything he says or does. As USA Today recently wrote in its unprecedented editorial against Mr. Trump,

He is erratic. Trump has been on so many sides of so many issues that attempting to assess his policy positions is like shooting at a moving target. A list prepared by NBC details 124 shifts by Trump on 20 major issues since shortly before he entered the race . . .

He is ill-equipped to be Commander-in-Chief. . . .

He traffics in prejudice. . . .

His business career is checkered. . . . A series of investigative articles published by the USA TODAY Network found that Trump has been involved in thousands of lawsuits over the past three decades, including at least 60 that involved small businesses and contract employees who said they were stiffed. So much for being a champion of the little guy. . .

He isn’t leveling with the American people. . . .

He speaks recklessly. . . .

He’s a serial liar. . . .

For the life of me, I don’t see anything concrete that Trump stands for other than racism, xenophobia and insult. If you vote for him, that is what you stand for.

Finally, I am a U.S. citizen as are my children, and what possible argument can there be for denying my family from entering my home country and the place where my parents and siblings live? Because my wife and children are Muslim?


As far as I know, no one in my wife’s family has ever advocated for or supported:

  • Capital punishment
  • Bombing, invading or occupying another country, preemptively or otherwise
  • Carpet bombing
  • Killing human shields
  • Killing the (innocent) family members of terrorists
  • Torture or enhanced interrogation
  • Humiliating women or your political adversaries.

Meanwhile, Trump (and arguably Hilary even) have supported all of these.

So you have a choice this election. Do you ever want to see me again? Because if you vote Trump, you are rejecting me and my family. That is clear. It is not a joke. It is not funny.

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Filed under Elections 2016, Friends / Family, Married to a Moroccan

How Difficult is It to Show a Little Support?

Ferguson Police NYT 2


One would think the GOP and gun advocates would be more supportive of Americans’ rights to be free from excessive government intervention and from being shot by the police for the mere possession of a firearm. Apparently when it comes to black people, the GOP and NRA worship the government and anything in a uniform.

As Eugene Robinson writes,

If you are a black man in America, exercising your constitutional right to keep and bear arms can be fatal. You might think the National Rifle Association and its amen chorus would be outraged, but apparently they believe Second Amendment rights are for whites only.

Meanwhile a White guy can wave a gun and taunt Black protesters. And we all know the police aren’t going to shoot him.

On the Philando Castile shooting where after telling the police he possessed a legal firearm, the police shot Castile dead, Robinson writes:

Afterward, it was confirmed that Castile did indeed have a legal permit to carry a gun. He was not guilty of any crime. He was just 32 — and, incredibly, had in his brief life been stopped a total of 52 times for nickel-and-dime traffic violations.

Think about that: here’s a guy who had been stopped 52 times by the police – not in the West Bank but in the United States of America. So why is Donald Trump saying – to much praise from the Right — that in his America, he would increase Stop & Frisk? If being stopped 52 times by the police isn’t excessive government intervention then I don’t know what is. Stop & Frisk is the epitome of government excess.


We all remember this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

But how about what comes next?

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But overall, my biggest question is: why is it so difficult for Republicans and many Americans (including plenty of Democrats) to simply show a little support, especially when such a large sector of our society is crying out for help? Why is it that a portion of Americans are asking to be treated with dignity by the government they pay to protect them, yet Trump and most conservatives boast about making their lives worse?

Remember, the police work for us, not the other way around. The police are government representatives paid for by us the taxpayers. If taxpayers are unhappy with the services their community receives from the police, the community should have the right to protest and demand a change, and absolutely no one in America should find that controversial.

If one portion of America wants to vote for a candidate for his supposed business acumen, then tell me what successful business in the world survives when it dismisses its customers’ complaints and taunts them in response? Surely that is how one of our major parties wishes to treat us.

So when Colin Kaepernick takes a knee for the National Anthem. Or when African Americans around the county demand to receive better service from those they pay to protect them, ridiculing them is counterproductive and about as un-patriotic as one can imagine.

Wouldn’t showing just a little support make much more sense? Why not start by just listening?



Seeing this photo coincides with a conversation I had today with a friend about that sudden fear that rushes through your body whenever a police officer crosses your paths in the United States, whether it is simply a police cruiser pulling up behind you on the road, an officer standing next to you in a store, or stopping you on the street. That feeling that you must be absolutely submissive is absolutely unique to the United States of America. And I say that as a “white” boy from a nice white suburb.  It is a feeling I have never had anywhere else in the world, having lived now 16 years abroad.

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It’s Just Creepy

first-orderI did my entire primary and secondary education in the Montgomery Country Public Schools system in Maryland, USA. And every single weekday morning from age 5 to 18, I stood up with my entire class, faced the American flag and a loudspeaker, placed my right hand over my heart, and — accompanied by the rest of the classrooms and students in the school building — followed the lead of our school principal to recite in unison the Pledge of Allegiance.

north-koreaThis wasn’t Nazi Germany, some former Soviet state or North Korea. It was and continues to be the United States of America.

When San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked controversy for refusing to stand for the national anthem, I immediately thought – not about the politics – but how the whole playing and standing for the national anthem thing is – like making children recite a morning pledge — just creepy.

As I get older, travel the world and live abroad, I can see how creepy – insecure even – is this very unique American obsession with constantly reaffirming our patriotism.

I go to an airport in the U.S. and when my flight is ready to board, the ground handler announces that servicemen in uniform get priority boarding. Then people clap and thank the guys in camou for their service. Forget for a second the politics of whether I support the wars they fight on my behalf or believe that those wars actually protect me or my freedoms. The draft is over, these are people who of free volition, in a free market have elected to take a government job working in the U.S. military, like anyone else who freely chooses to become a public school teacher, tax collector, DMV administrator or public defender.

As Bomani Jones writes in relation to Kaepernick,

The NFL takes many of its cues from the military and has encouraged the idea that reverence for the military is a citizen’s requirement, not choice. The draft is gone, but we’ve all been conscripted as unquestioning devotees whose gratitude can be demanded by anyone at any time.

If we live in a country that believes – has convinced itself that it believes – in the free market, in private sector solutions and that anything the government does or controls should be distrusted, then why the cognitive dissonance when it comes to people in a uniform? Why do we have to be unquestioning devotees to the military and the police? Don’t they work for us? Don’t we pay their salaries with our taxes? Isn’t paying taxes then the ultimate sign of support for our military? So why aren’t those wealthy Americans and corporations who do everything in the power to pay lower (0r no) taxes (not to mention, never serving in the military) considered less patriotic?

And why is it that we are told to protest peacefully, but then when we do – as in the case of Kaepernick by sitting and not standing – we suddenly become anti-American heretics? And why does everyone else have to protest peacefully, when the U.S. government, its officials, agents and pundits get to threaten everyone else with war, violence, death and punishment? So, for example, why does John McCain get to propose invading country after country while everyone else has to act like Martin Luther King Jr.?


Of course, it wasn’t a coincidence that in 1954 corporate America together with religious groups lobbied to get the words “under God” incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance. We wanted to brainwash Americans to believe that capitalism was sanctioned by Christian values at a time of heightened fears of communism. But now we act like those two words are the resounding pillars of our society.

watchtowerSo forget for a second the politics of Black Lives Matters or that Black Americans may be uncomfortable with police departments like the one in Ferguson running a shakedown racket, the police towers and constant harassment, mass incarceration or that the police are a greater mortal threat than terrorists. Forget about whether not standing for the anthem is an appropriate act of protest or an offensive public heresy.

Repeat after me, “I love you, father, I love you father, I love you father,” until I am finally comfortable that you love me.  At the end of the day, are we a nation of children in need of brainwashing or a nation of insecure, needy parents who require constant affirmation from their flock?

The fact is that the demand for unquestioning devotion in the form of pledges of allegiance or the “Please stand for the National Anthem” is just plain creepy.


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Photographs and Memories (dedicated to Chantal Cavé)


There must be something endearing about the fact that when I was thirteen years old, my then girlfriend and I used to listen to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” – a song that was not contemporary at that time – conscious that due to our age, our puppy-love would not last forever. Yet it was Croce’s “Photographs and Memories” that I had found more haunting at that time. It’s funny that as a thirteen year old boy – the extent of whose “bedroom talks” consisted of talking on the phone until late into the night – I was impressed at how such a short and simple song lyrically, could so adeptly transmit the tragedy inherent in love and memory.

Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you

Memories that come at night
Take me to another time
Back to a happier day
When I called you mine

But we sure had a good time
When we started way back when
Morning walks and bedroom talks
Oh how I loved you then

Summer skies and lullabies
Nights we couldn’t say good-bye
And of all of the things that we knew
Not a dream survived

Photographs and memories
All the love you gave to me
Somehow it just can’t be true
That’s all I’ve left of you

But we sure had a good time
When we started way back when
Morning walks and bedroom talks
Oh how I loved you then

Fast forward almost 30 years, and one day in the summer of 2014 when trying to come up with a new song to sing goodnight to my first born son, “Photographs and Memories” and its lyrics came back to me almost instantly. And for some strange reason – maybe the mention of “Christmas” – my son loved the song.

Sadly, rediscovering that song coincided with my brother’s fiancée, Chantal Cavé, being admitted into the hospital and then a few weeks later passing away, two years ago today.  Those nights when Chantal was in the hospital on the other side of the Atlantic with my brother at her side, I would sing that song to my son, and I did everything in my power not to break out in tears.

As I have written before, I did not know Chantal well. I met her once but knew about the year she and my brother had spent together and that it would define him forever. The most I could do was write a short poem about that year.

Now two years later, my son still asks me every few nights for “Photographs and Memories” and each time I sing it, I think about how few photographs and memories are left from when I was thirteen, about the people we love and cherish, and about the huge hole I feel in my heart for my brother and Chantal’s family that can never be filled with photographs and memories alone. But sometimes photographs and memories are all we’ve got.

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The Sympathizer

The SympathizerI just finished the Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer by Viet Thahn Nguyen about an American educated Vietnamese double-agent (of mixed European and Vietnamese parentage) that takes place during the aftermath of the Fall of Saigon. There were things about the book that I loved – fantastic insights into American culture, policy and its attitude towards Asians – but I ultimately did not always relate to or care about the main character. The book is supposed to be reminiscent of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, but it felt more like The Orphan Master’s Son to me.

Here are a few samples of some of my favorite lines from Mr. Nguyen’s wonderful prose:

The General’s men, by preparing themselves to invade our now communist homeland, were in fact turning themselves into new Americans. After all, nothing was more American than wielding a gun and committing oneself to die for freedom and independence, unless it was wielding that gun to take away someone else’s freedom and independence.

. . .  happiness, American style, is a zero-sum game […]. For someone to be happy, he must measure his happiness against someone else’s happiness, a process which most certainly works in reverse. If I said I was happy, someone else must be unhappy, most likely one of you. But if I said I was unhappy, that might make some of you happier, but it would also you uneasy, as no one is supposed to be unhappy in America. I believe our clever young man has intuited that while only the pursuit of happiness is promised to all Americans, unhappiness is guaranteed for many.

What am I dying for? … I’m dying because this world I’m living in isn’t worth dying for! If something is worth dying for, then you’ve got a reason a live.


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The One-Sided News Cycle



Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing good to say about Trump and the last thing the world or our country needs is for him to become president. But my entire Twitter and Facebook feeds are fully consumed with the latest offensive, ignorant or stupid thing that Trump or his representatives are saying. The same with the front pages of our major newspapers. There is no real discussion or scrutiny of Hilary or her polices. Hilary is suspiciously absent from the news. The entire election has become about how ridiculous Trump is, and that is definitely not good for America or for democracy. Election coverage should be a series of discussions about different policy options and the candidates’ qualifications and ability to implement those policies.

The 2016 Election is just a dumb, one-sided Reality Show.

We’ve become a country of suckers. #UnitedStatesofSuckers

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